Research in Motion (RIM) has certainly seen better days. A recent report from research firm Canalys showed the company’s U.S. market share had declined to 9 percent during this year’s third quarter, down from 24 percent one year ago. To kick off the fourth quarter, RIM faced aworldwide three-day outage of BlackBerry services, which left most users without email or text messages. Then the company’s shares dipped below $20 in early November. In short, 2011 has been a rough year.

But according to Galen Gruman at InforWorld, things may turn around in 2012, when RIM plans to replace the BlackBerry operating system with a brand new one: BBX OS. The new system will run on both smartphones and tablets, similar to the iOS and Android operating systems. Gruman says that BBX OS will be based on the QNX operating system that RIM boughta year and a half ago. QNX was used to run the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which came out this summer and has faced lackluster sales. According to RIM, the company shipped 700,000 PlayBooks during Q1 and Q2 this year (ending August 27), compared with more than 20 million iPads sold during the same period.

Gruman spoke with Alec Saunders, VP for developer relations at RIM, whom he said hinted that the new BBX OS may be a complete revitalization for BlackBerry rather than an updated version of the system used to run PlayBook. By all accounts, a big change is exactly what RIM needs. Gruman describes the planned BBX as “a general-purpose mobile OS for games, communications, productivity, media, and creativity,” which may compete directly with iOS and Android. He also highlights plans to pump up BBM Connect, which would “allow developers to create social apps in domains other than instant messaging.”

But while the new OS may be the key to reviving BlackBerry’s competitive edge, it also puts current BlackBerry users in a holding pattern. According to Gruman, BlackBerry smartphones that run the current BlackBerry OS 7 “are all but dead” since they won’t be able to upgrade toBBX. That includes the newest BlackBerry Bold 9790 and BlackBerry Curve 9380 models,released last week. So those mulling a new BlackBerry smartphone purchase in the near term can count on it being obsolete by the time BBX devices roll out sometime next year. Gruman goes so far as to say “a BlackBerry investment today is a sure loser.”

What are your thoughts on RIM’s plans for the new BBX OS? Do you love BlackBerry enough to hold out and consider the new OS when it launches or are you already poised to jump off the BlackBerry ship?

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