BlackBerry Shows Off Prototype To Developers, Hopes For Increased Interest
May 1, 2012

BlackBerry Shows Off Prototype To Developers, Hopes For Increased Interest

John Neumann for

Research in Motion (RIM) today unveiled a prototype device, the BlackBerry 10 phone and refreshed operating system that the Ontario-based company hopes will stem its slide into irrelevance.

The prototype phones given to software developers were still early testing units and lacked the ability to actually make phone calls or access wireless networks, reports Ian Austen for The New York Times.

With Blackberry phones falling from the top of the business market to around 10 percent of all smartphone sales, RIM is pretty much betting the company on this device. Apple and Android have become the standard for mobile devices these last few years and a largely unresponsive RIM has let Blackberry tumble.

RIM said would not be sold to consumers until late this year, and showing off such unfinished devices at its premier showcase, BlackBerry World 2012 conference , taking place now in Florida, may hint at trouble with its engineering departments.

RIM hasn´t released details of the device, but the basic specs include a 4.2-inch screen with a 1280×768 resolution, 16GB of storage, and 1GB of RAM, reports Ben Kersey for SlashGear. The developer alpha is also said to have a mini HDMI port, a microSD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and three stage volume rocker. A quad-band HSPA+ radio is also on board, as is a microSIM card tray.

RIM has a reputation for delivering products behind schedule and incomplete. Alec Saunders, the company´s vice president of developer relations, said it was necessary to get a “very, very stripped down” version out to developers now to avoid a more serious problem later.

“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 Blackberries before we bring them to market,” Mr. Saunders said in an interview with the New York Times on Friday at a RIM office here where much of the new operating system was developed. “If we launch without applications, well, it will be slow.”

RIM was adamant that this is not the final word on hardware or software that consumers will see when BlackBerry 10 (BB10) does launch.

The device is designed to give developers a chance to get up to speed with the new Cascade framework for BB10. Right now, the OS does have some BB10 elements, but it´s still very similar to the PlayBook OS that is familiar to BlackBerry users.

Although the Playbook was praised for its use of the brand-new QNX operating system, it has been troubled with problems, not the least of which is the highly competitive nature of the tablet market which is not at all amenable to a non-Android, non-iPad offering.

Playbook was missing seemingly basic features when it was initially released, such as calendar and messaging apps. Also, the 7-inch format wasn´t exactly a good fit for enterprise users, who have largely gravitated to the more powerful 10-inch model used by the iPad.

RIM´s Playbook 2.0 firmware update addressed issues and provided native calendar and contacts apps, but it has yet to generate much excitement for the device. An LTE-capable version could strike interest if RIM launches it quickly enough, since the market of LTE tablets is slim right now. However, it is only a matter of time before that changes and the LTE Playbook falls into the same trap as the last version.

BlackBerry´s lack of market share in the United States is not helping RIM attract or keep the interest of many developers. Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail, announced that his company would stop updating the BlackBerry version of its visual voice mail program due to lack of interest, concentrating instead on iPhone and Android versions.

Mr. Quilici said he was in no hurry to move into BlackBerry 10. “If BB10 starts showing some real success, we´ll take a look,” he said.