BlackBerry 7 also introduces support for NFC technologies, enabling consumers to access information by tapping their device to a smart tag--presumably, RIM will eventually extend the platform's NFC capabilities to include contactless payments. Also new: Voice-activated search and BlackBerry Balance, which separates personal content from corporate content on the smartphone, enabling users to share social networking information, play games and explore other consumer apps while still adhering to enterprise demands for data management and security.
RIM is hoping BlackBerry 7 will revive its declining fortunes in the smartphone market. Last month, digital research firm comScore reported that Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android mobile operating system surpassed BlackBerry in U.S. market share, ending the RIM platform's long run at the top. BlackBerry now accounts for 28.9 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, behind Android at 33 percent.
In other BlackBerry platform news, the fourth annual BlackBerry Partners Fund Developer Challenge is now live, offering smartphone and PlayBook tablet application programmers $3 million in prizes. This year's Challenge includes three competitive tracks: Best Adobe Flash/AIR App, Most Innovative BlackBerry WebWorks App for PlayBook and BlackBerry 6, and Most Addictive Social App, the latter targeting solutions that run on RIM's BBM Social Platform. For the first time, the BlackBerry Partners Fund also will distribute regional Recognition Awards in six categories:
- Best B2C application developed for a customer by an Agency or ISV
- Most useful enterprise application
- Best website conversion using the BlackBerry WebWorks platform
- Most creative implementation of Super App characteristics
- Top Performers (Most innovative use of Payment Service and/or Advertising Service
- Academic (Most compelling application created by student or faculty)
BlackBerry Partners Fund will select winners across four global regions: North America, Latin America, Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia Pacific. All winners will be recognized at this year's BlackBerry Developer Conference, taking place Oct. 18-20 in San Francisco. Judges will evaluate all applications submitted based on quality, innovation, creativity and compelling user experience. Prizes and awards a weeklong placement on the BlackBerry App World featured carousel, BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, and membership in the BlackBerry Alliance Program. The first 100 eligible applications submitted to each of the three competitions in the Challenge will receive prize packages--prizes also will be awarded to applications selected as the first and second runners-up and winner in each competition in each region. Submission details are here.
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