BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has officially announced the next-generation operating system that will power all of the company's devices going forward. Up until now BlackBerry OS served as the foundation for their smartphones while a QNX-based variant powered their PlayBook tablet. With today's announcement RIM is taking the next logical step forward and unifying both efforts under a new mobile platform named BBX.

RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis made the unveiling at today's BlackBerry DevCon conference and said that BBX will combine the best of QNX with the best features of their current BlackBerry operating system. The whole company is aligning behind a single platform and a single vision with BBX-powered tablets, smartphones and embedded devices.

Lazaridis promised an easier process for developers, more profits, and the ability to take advantage of the platform's upgraded gaming engine. BBX is set to incorporate enterprise and cloud services. It will also support applications developed using any of the tools available today for the BlackBerry PlayBook, including Native SDK, Adobe AIR, Adobe Flash, WebWorks, HTML5, as well as the long-promised BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps.

RIM introduced a developer beta of PlayBook OS 2.0 that will finally bring Android compatibility. Developers can install a BlackBerry-specific plugin for the native Android development environment, Eclipse, or choose to re-package apps completely online through the new BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps.

Another interesting aspect of BBX looks to be the Cascades UI framework developed by The Astonishing Tribe, which RIM acquired in 2010. The company hopes it will allow the company to introduce "super apps" that are deeply integrated with one another, push services and BBM. At today's keynote, RIM demoed a sleek photo gallery app built with Cascades as well as a visual stream showing email, calls, BBM, SMS, Facebook, and Skype.

During his presentation Mike Lazaridis also countered criticism of its competitive position by sharing a few stats. According to the executive, RIM has sold 165 million BlackBerry smartphones to date and currently has 70 million subscribers, up from 50 million a year earlier, and 50 million BBM instant messaging users. Regarding the App World, Lazaridis claims it has served over 1 billion downloads, and that 13 percent of BlackBerry developers have made more than $100,000 compared with 1 percent of iOS developers who have more than $1,000.

Images and video footage from