Open source WebKit browser coming for BlackBerry

Research In Motion (RIM) co-CEO Mike Lazaridis this morning showed off the company's latest BlackBerry Browser, based on the WebKit open source browser engine, to anxious Mobile World Congress (MWC) attendees in Barcelona, Spain.


Research In Motion (RIM) co-CEO Mike Lazaridis this morning showed off the company's latest BlackBerry Browser, based on the WebKit open-source browser-engine, to anxious Mobile World Congress (MWC) attendees in Barcelona.

The day was a long time coming, as the BlackBerry Browser is probably the single most-commonly attacked component of RIM's BlackBerry OS. That's because the existing BlackBerry browser is slow, it has trouble with many JavaScript-heavy pages and it renders certain web pages unreadable altogether, just to name a few common complaints.

The new Browser's not available yet, and RIM's not offering up specific dates for when you can expect it, though it'll probably hit in late 2010.

In his MWC keynote address, Lazaridis was quick to focus on the fact that the new, WebKit-based BlackBerry Browser not only loads JavaScript much faster, it handles AJAX efficiently, supports HTML 5.0 and CSS3 and even scored a cool 100/100 in the Acid3 Web standards test, which is used to gauge a browser's compatibility with a variety of web standards. (Note: Neither Internet Explorer nor Firefox, the web's two most common browsers, received a perfect score on the Acid3 test.)

The new BlackBerry Browser also supports both BlackBerry Widgets and JIL Widgets, according to RIM's Director of Developer Relations, Mike Kirkup, which will extend the functionality of the browser and should lead to the creation of some interesting new BlackBerry-Browser-based "web apps," or apps that run in the browser.

Here's a quick video demo of the new browser in action.

Why RIM didn't show off the WebKit browser on the BlackBerry Storm2, with its significantly larger screen and touch-navigation, is beyond me. The demo shows the browser on a BlackBerry Bold 9700, which has a much smaller screen than the Storm2's display and uses RIM's new "trackpad" for navigation.

Honestly, it's difficult for me to get too excited about a new BlackBerry Browser after all this time dealing with RIM's subpar offering. Sure, the browser shown in the video appears to be an improvement over the current BlackBerry browser, but I've honestly lost patience waiting for a functional browser from RIM.

And I'm worried that the new browser will prove to be too little too late.

I'll be more excited once I actually get my thumbs on the software, no doubt, but right now, I can't help feeling like it has taken RIM far too long to get to this point. I may be willing to forget all that if RIM's acquisition of Torch Mobile ends up producing the next-generation browser we're all hoping for.

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