The iphone is actually has the potential to be more functional then the BB. It only requires the code to make the tweaks. It is basically a mini desktop computer. The BB, on the other hand, is a glorified pager with other features bolted on. It is showing its age and will soon be unable to compete with the likes of the iphone, Android or the Palm Pre. RIM needs a new OS, but it seems they are taking a cue from the Palm of old and are basically sitting on their laurels with small, basically insignificant changes while the other move on with bigger and better. OS 5.0 looks like a joke as far as innovation goes. If that is the best RIM can do, it will be on its way down if a few years and we will be talking about how great RIM was.
The way people feel operating systems are, they look at the interface. Having gone through a number of OS advocacy wars, operating systems can be very different underneath.
In terms of age, one might actually find this surprising. Android and webOS are all based on Linux, which has its roots on Unix, an operating system developed in the seventies intended for minicomputers. Yes, that Linux and Unix whose descendants now dominate the server world. Linux has been around for a long time, its power, like Unix is that its vastly scalable. It will run from your Motorola ROKR E8 to a top end supercomputer cluster. Have you heard of that project where hundreds of PS3 are joined into a distributing network to form a virtual supercomputer? That's right, its based on Linux.
iPhone OS is based on MacOS X. Which in turn goes back to the NeXTOS, which features a microkernel architecture and an object oriented system.
Symbian is based on the PSION OS. The PSION is probably the first PDA in the world, having hit the market
Windows Mobile is based on Windows CE.
Palm OS has its roots with Apple's Newton OS. The original founders of Palm were from the Newton Message Pad project.
Blackberry is Blackberry.
Based on chronology, you will find that all these OSes were invented right about the same time. Linux probably the first of the bunch.
The difference is the roots. Both Linux and all its variants, and MacOS X all started from Unix inspirations and are used in servers and workstations. These are mainframe grade OSes being scaled downwards to small devices. Windows CE, Symbian/Psion, Palm, and Blackberry all started as operating systems for small devices.
As devices becomes more and more powerful, it is gradually playing into the hands of the scalar OSes.
This is not the place to teach operating system design fundamentals and I will leave it at that.
I don't know anything and I don't think there is anyone out there who knows fundamentally how the Blackberry operating system works due to the lack of information. In a way, its a proprietary operating system, not much different from Nokia's non Symbian phones, or the operating systems used by LG and Samsung on their non-Smartphones. I hesitate to call these 'dumb' phones because the only real difference between the operating system of a 'dumbphone' and a 'smartphone' is that you got SDKs released in public for third party programmers to produce applications for it.
I don't know and I don't think anyone knows how the Blackberry OS is underneath. Does it has preemptive multitasking and multithreading? Does it have protective memory spaces? Does it kernel protection? Does it have access rings? Do device drivers run in kernel mode? Does it have a microkernel or monolithic kernel architecture? How are APIs layered? Does anyone have a chart?
Given this, I presume there is actually plenty of room for the Blackberry OS to evolve. Linux started out as a mere text driven interface you know, like user>. The power of Linux is that so much man hours have been devoted to it from all the open foundations.
And if the Blackberry OS doesn't have what it takes to scale, I see it possible that RIM can move over the entire OS 4 or OS 5 interface on top of a Linux foundation.
Nonetheless yes, it is correct, RIM should spend more time cleaning up its OS. Palm could have done that too, there is no technical reason why the Palm OS can have a much more modern looking user interface. But Palm decided to milk existing technologies and waste resources trying to integrate Windows Mobile into their Treos.