RIM introduces new BlackBerry prototype early
A prototype new BlackBerry operating system and designed to bring the struggling smartphone range up-to-date with its Android and iPhone rivals has been unveiled and released to app developers early.
Research In Motion, the Canadian firm behind the brand, also unveiled a prototype of the type of phone it plans to release for the new Blackberry 10 operating system. In a break with tradition it does not feature a physical keyboard, or button of any kind on its front.
“The reason why we’re doing this - which is unprecedented for us, and it’s quite uncommon in the industry - is because we want to create a wave of application support behind the new BlackBerrys before we bring them to market,” Alec Saunders, the company’s vice president of developer relations, told The New York Times.
At the moment BlackBerry apps are typically an afterthought for developers, who concentrate to the profitable iOS App Store and Google Play, which offers access to the rapidly-building army Android users. As an incentive, RIM is offering developers whose apps are finished and approved by the time BlackBerry 10 is introduced to consumers $10,000 guaranteed revenue.
The prototype smarphone, called the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, features a 4.2-inch screen and the usual range of wireless and wired connectivity options. RIM stressed it had been created “just for our developers”, however.
“This is a prototype device created for the purpose of testing BlackBerry 10 applications during development,” the firm said in a blog.
The new operating system is widely seen as a last chance for RIM to recover from a series of strategic blunders including failing to respond to the threat from iOS and Android’s user-friendly smartphone interfaces, and the disastrous launch of the PlayBook tablet. The problems have been compounded by operational errors, such as a complete internet outage for millions of users last year.
RIM’s market share has tumbled to 6.7 per cent in the first quarter from double that a year ago, according to IDC. Its share price has also collapsed and its two founders were forced to give up their leadership roles earlier this year.
The version of BlackBerry 10 unveiled on Tuesday, at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando, seems to address many of the criticisms of current BlackBerry software. It will offer full multi-tasking, allowing users to switch seamlessly between apps, cleaner presentation, new predictive virtual keyboard, and new camera app.
Many industry analysts questioned whether it will be too little, too late, however. The new BlackBerry software and hardware is due out in Autumn, but has already suffered delays. If it does deliver on its current schedule RIM is likely to come up against the iPhone 5, as well as smartphone operating system updates from Google and Microsoft.