(Ars Technica) -- RIM has announced a substantial upgrade to the operating system powering BlackBerry devices. BlackBerry OS 6.0 is intended to bolster BlackBerry's appeal to consumers, with web browsing in particular a focus. The new OS will be released in the third quarter of this year.
Consumers now make up a large proportion of RIM's sales. Though the BlackBerry platform offers a very strong e-mail experience, the web browsing experience?so important in the consumer market?is much weaker. In February, the company announced that its next web browser would use WebKit, the same browser engine as is found on both Android handsets and Apple's iPhone.
The new browser includes support for tabs, new-look favorites, and pinch-to-zoom. Indeed, multitouch support will be available through out the OS on suitable hardware.
The browser is not the only part of the OS seeing attention. The handling of multimedia is improved, with a new music player and photo viewer. Both are designed to support touch, with the photo application taking many design cues from the iPhone's photo browser.
BlackBerry OS's homescreen has undergone big changes in 6.0. The new homescreen is customizable to allow applications and favorites to be organized however you want.
Speaking of applications, RIM's App World application marketplace will also be preinstalled in OS 6.0, making application download and purchase immediately accessible to BlackBerry users. The company is also set to include credit-card and carrier billing for applications sold through App World. Making the platform's application store more readily accessible is a clear response to Android and the iPhone.
The new OS was described as working with current device models?so unlike Android, iPhone, and the forthcoming Windows Phone 7, RIM clearly has no intention of going down the mandatory touch interface road any time soon?but compatibility with older devices is not guaranteed.
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