RIM unveils prototypes of next-generation BlackBerry 10

RIM has effectively staked its future on its new BlackBerry 10 operating system

Written by New York Times | New York | Published: May 3, 2012 12:56 am


Research in Motion on Tuesday unveiled prototypes of the new BlackBerry phone hardware and software that it hopes will be its salvation. But the company’s demonstrations of the far-from-complete products again raised concerns about its ability to produce final versions on schedule and stay in the fight against Apple and Android phone makers.

RIM has effectively staked its future on its new BlackBerry 10 operating system. The need for the company to drastically overhaul its line of smartphones,which once dominated and defined that market,was underscored by an analysis released by IDC on Tuesday. It estimated that BlackBerry’s global market share fell to 6.7 per cent during the first quarter of this year,roughly half of what it was in the same period in 2011.

“They’re not being stupid; they’re doing everything they can,” said Mike Abramsky,who recently left RBC Capital Markets,where he covered RIM as an analyst for a decade. “But this is about the challenges of being late to the game.”

At a company-sponsored conference for large customers and software developers in Orlando,where the prototype phones were given to about 2,000 developers,Thorsten Heins,RIM’s chief executive,made it clear that the company must shake its recent reputation for promising more than it could deliver. RIM has said the phones will be on the market by the end of the year.

“We’re hitting the milestones we set for ourselves on the new BlackBerry 10 platform,” Heins told the crowd. “I promise to you that the whole company is laser-focused on delivering on time and meeting your expectations.”

RIM emphasised that the prototype phones,which will allow developers to test the BlackBerry 10 applications they create,do not reflect the product that will ultimately be sold to consumers. But for now,at least,they appear to represent an end to the BlackBerry’s signature physical keyboard,which many business users have stuck with even as touch-screen phones have surged in popularity.

After noting that “typing for BlackBerry users is really important,” Heins,along with another executive,demonstrated an onscreen software keyboard that they said would adapt to users’ typing styles over time. They said it would include novel ways of providing word prompts to speed up typing. They made no reference to physical keyboards,and the prototype phones do not have even a single button on their front.

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