updated 08:50 pm EDT, Thu April 28, 2011
RIM officially relabels BlackBerry 6.1 as 7
RIM's co-chief Jim Balsillie in a question and answer call for the company's shipment warning validated rumors and said that it was renaming BlackBerry 6.1 to 7. He was silent on what it would involve but explained it as a reflection of how much had changed. It was "such a big update" that it was more appropriate to give it a whole version number, he said.
Many of the changes are believed to be subtler. Multi-touch should be more pervasive, but it will also bring a hardware-accelerated interface with real OpenGL acceleration both for the OS and for 3D games, which have previously run too slowly on BlackBerry phones. The most overt interface changes will involve deeper home screen customization and voice-guided device searching, both of which would take some cues from Android.
Speculation has maintained that, if it remains true to 6.1, the OS is ultimately just a way to split updates along hardware lines. All current BlackBerry phones can't properly support the accelerated graphics, if at all, and already tend to bog down under the weight of BlackBerry 6. Forking new phones only to version 7 would allow RIM to bring over only some features to older phones as well as create a stronger incentive to upgrade to a new phone.
The company may have more in store when it talks about BlackBerry 7 at the BlackBerry World show in Orlando next week. RIM is expected to show the Bold Touch at BlackBerry World as the first device running the new OS and to ship it in June or July.