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March 26, 2012

RIM: Blackberry 10 prototype in May

Research in Motion is releasing a prototype device of its new generation of phones to developers in May. Is it too late to catch the iPhone?

By Vinod

Research In Motion’s woes as a company in 2011 have been attached to its long delayed next generation of smartphone devices, due to be running its new BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The company has now announced that at its next devcon, BlackBerry Jam 10, in Orlando it will unveil not only the first beta of the BlackBerry 10 Developer Tools, but each attendee will be given a ‘limited edition’ developer’s prototype device – the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha.

While this device will never be released to the public, it will be able to get a variant of the new OS into the hands of developers so they can begin work on producing apps for BlackBerry devices.

As the BlackBerry developers themselves put it:

"This is not a BlackBerry 10 smartphone – it is a prototype running a modified version of the PlayBook OS which will help developers design their apps for the BlackBerry 10 smartphone form factor.

"Just to be 100% clear – it’s not the final hardware or OS for BlackBerry 10 – it’s a device to help developers get started with designing for what’s coming. BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha is only for developers – not end users – and is only available to developer attendees at BlackBerry 10 Jam."

Depending on your point of view, this is either a good thing, or a disaster.

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Good – in that RIM feels the software is mature enough to now be released to developers, and have it working on a handset.

Disastrous – in that after more than a year since its announcement RIM still doesn’t have any functional retail BlackBerry 10 handsets. Also, the aforementioned software isn’t actually BB10 – more a mod of the Playbook OS 2.0 running on a non-descript handset.

While RIM continues to sell its last gen devices such as the BlackBerry Bold with great success in emerging markets such as Indonesia and amongst UK youths, the public and private sectors have mostly moved on to significantly more sophisticated Apple or Android devices.

In a final humiliating blow, even patriotic Canadians have turned away from their hometown heroes, as the Apple iPhone outsold Blackberry in Canada for the first time last week.

As a best case scenario, launching BlackBerry 10 in second or third quarter 2012 is simply going to run it straight into the next-gen iPhone launch, which Apple traditionally unveils in June each year (although the iPhone 4S was released in October last year).

Even under new CEO Thorsten Heims, the company still hasn’t revealed its product roadmap for BB10 in 2012. A few prototypes, especially a ‘BlackBerry London‘ were apparently leaked last year, but the veracity of this information was never confirmed.

The inventor of the modern smartphone has had such a bad 2011, that it has also allegedly been approached by a variety of companies looking at a takeover, none of which materialised.

The BlackBerry Playbook will go down as one of the great failed technology product launches. last month it released version OS2.0 of the Playbooks operating system which fixed many of its problems – a year after the initial launch and with minimal market share compared to Apple’s iPad. Playbooks now sell for just £169.


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