We’ve been seeing a lot of pictures of the upcoming BlackBerry Slider and I’ve had a few conversations with developers I’d like to share. My primary concern about the BlackBerry Slider is that the impetus for its design comes from the carriers and what’s good for them, rather than the developers and what will truly benefit the platform.
While there is a lot we don’t know about the BlackBerry Slider, we do know that it incorporates several different input methods. These input methods include:
- Physical keyboard
- Virtual keyboard (landscape mode)
Consider something as simple as navigation. With a trackpad device, you know a user will only be navigating horizontally and vertically (and possibly diagonally). With a touchscreen, you have to accommodate for the fact that the user will navigate anywhere. Combining the two, as well as having both types of keyboards, you’re creating a plethora of new instances for bugs and unpredicted entry.
Another development hassle is the possibility that SurePress is dead. This rumor has been circulating and it’s hard to believe it’s true. RIM has a lot of money invested in SurePress and abandoning the technology, even for one device, would be surprising to say the least. That being said, if they do abandon SurePress, developers now have to accommodate for yet another input method. Software ported to the SurePress Storm, now needs to be redeveloped to avoid the ‘highlight then select’ instance and replace it with simply ‘select’.
Complicating the platform is a step in the wrong direction. Developing for BlackBerry needs to get easier, and by adding more input methods, you’re doing just the opposite. So why is RIM going in this direction? If I had to guess, I would say it’s a carrier decision. RIM has historically done anything the carrier wants, because they value the relationship, and believe that if the carrier is happy more devices get sold and in the end RIM wins. This logic is sound but assumes the carrier knows how best to sell smartphones. Apple made the incredibly ballsy move of believing they knew better than the carrier, and it has done very well for them.
The BlackBerry Slider will definitely be a big seller, because it likely has a lot of carrier marketing data behind it that says users are looking for a touchscreen slider. I’m sure whatever carrier is requesting it (almost certainly Verizon), believes it will give them an offering their competition (AT&T) doesn’t have (namely an iPhone with a keyboard). On the other hand, developers now have a new device to add to their porting list, and it will be a long time after this device launches before we start seeing decent software available for it.