Research in Motion’s BlackBerry operating system has been powering smartphones since Apple and Google were only known for making computers and search engines. But over the past few years Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have come to dominate the smartphone space, and while I think a lot of people forget just how many BlackBerry phones are still sold every year, RIM is losing market share to the hipper/newer platforms.

While RIM launched BlackBerry OS 7 recently, giving the mobile operating system a visual refresh, expanded support for voice search, and better HTML5 support, the OS update still feels like a band-aid.

On the other hand, the company’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet uses a completely different operating system, based on QNX. It’s designed from the ground up to support touch input, includes an on-screen keyboard, and one of the best systems I’ve seen for multitasking on a mobile device (although admittedly, the multitasking features appear to have been ripped off from webOS).

RIM has already said that it would eventually launch phones using similar QNX-based software. Now the folks at BGR have received word that the first QNX phone could launch during hte first quarter of 2012.

The phone will reportedly have a 1 GHz single core processor and at launch it won’t work with BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Instead it will use Microsoft ActiveSync for Exchange services including push email. That’s because the company is still re-writing BES to work with QNX.

In other words, while the new phone will have a radically redesigned user interface so that it will function more like a modern smartphone and less like a BlackBerry device designed half a decade ago, it might not initially have all of the business-friendly features that really help set BlackBerry phones apart from the competition. After all, if you’re going to use ActiveSync, you might as well just use a Windows Phone 7 device.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...