Recycling a demo from January's CES, Heins showed off a new Bentley Continental GT convertible with a big, built-in center-mounted touch screen, providing an array of entertainment, navigation and communications apps and services. The system was created by Bentley and BlackBerry's QNX subsidiary, which developed the real-time operating system widely used in automotive systems today and also the basis of BlackBerry 10.
It's unclear whether the system was running BlackBerry 10 or QNX CAR, which is an HTML5 framework for leveraging consumer apps for in-vehicle infotainment systems. One feature, which also was seen previously at CES, was a video chat using BlackBerry Messenger, between a Z10 smartphone user and the car's occupants. If the car begins to move, the system automatically closes down the video link but maintains the audio link.
The news most enthusiastically received by the BlackBerry fans was about BlackBerry Messenger, the company's popular messaging system. Heins announced that Messenger would now let users create, discover and subscribe to channels -- in effect, specialized groups of Messenger users. Messages can be sent and received, and notifications set, just by members of a given group, permitting conversations and content sharing around specific topics, brands or other content.
BBM Channels is now available in beta for BlackBerry 10 smartphones, and for smartphones running BlackBerry 5 OS through 7.1.
And in a move long advocated by Messenger users, Heins said that BlackBerry Messenger will be available as a free app for iOS 6 and for Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The apps, available this summer, will allow messaging between users of three different mobile operating systems. Initially, the apps will provide basic messaging, but Heins promised that BlackBerry will supply video chat and other features if supported by iOS and Android through the rest of the year.
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