BlackBerry Live Kicks Off With Q5 Smartphone, BBM for iOS, Android

By Michelle Maisto  |  Print this article Print
BlackBerry's Heins

The BlackBerry Live keynote was jammed with news, including the Q5, BBM Channels, BBM for Android and iPhone, and a scholarship for women.

Hamilton's car wasn't the only one to grace the stage. Mark Rigley, director of the QNX concept development team, rolled out in the company's newest concept car, a Bentley Continental with a "great, big screen" in the center console. Rigley said the screen is curved so that one's finger can reach the length of it and features "pre-touch" technology, enabling it to react before a user's finger touches it.

With Heins in the passenger seat, the pair made a smartphone-to-car video call to Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software at BlackBerry, who with some help from a tropical backdrop pretended to be on vacation. (At last year's event, Bhardjwaj played a huge role in helping Heins balance the sizable burden on his shoulders.)

Rigley made clear that video calls only work when the car is still—if the car begins moving they turn into voice calls—and described the car as one of multiple end points in his network.

"I've got this Bentley in my Hub, so it'll send me a notification when there's an update," he said, also showing how quickly the car can update its mapping software, for example.

Last but not least, Alicia Keys was also in attendance to, among other things, introduce a BlackBerry Scholars Program designed to help more women pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The scholarship will provide full four-year tuition to select women focusing on STEM fields or who "show aptitude in the area of mobile computing."

Keys cited statistics about how more women than men graduate from college and women embrace mobile technology at a faster pace than men (56 percent of BlackBerry users are also women) but women are paid less in executive positions and only 20 women hold CEO titles in the Fortune 500 companies.

"I'm proud BlackBerry is demonstrating leadership in women's education, both in the school and in the workplace, and giving back to its most loyal users in such a profound way," said Keys, who with a panel of accomplished women will choose the first scholarship winners. (The deadline for entries is June 26.)

"If there's anything I've learned in my position so far," Keys added, "it's that the right people with the right tools can accomplish anything."

BlackBerry executives, with their new platform finally working for them, expressed much the same sentiment.

"We have a vision that spans the next 20 years," said Heins. "I'm thrilled to continue on this journey."

Follow Michelle Maisto on Twitter.