SAN FRANCISCO -- BlackBerry smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM) said it will launch BlackBerry 10 developer tools in beta and will distribute a limited edition developer prototype device at its BlackBerry 10 Jam event in Orlando, Fla., in May.
The device, known as the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, will not be a BlackBerry 10 smartphone, only a prototype running a modified version of the PlayBook OS, meant to help developers design their apps for the BlackBerry 10 smartphone form factor.
“It’s not the final hardware or OS, it’s a device to help developers get started with designing for what’s coming,” RIM said on Friday, (March 23) in a statement, adding that the device would allow developers to test their applications with RIM’s BlackBerry 10 toolsets.
The Canadian phone maker hopes that by seeding the prototype devices, it will be able to build up some buzz for the new platform, which has been adapted for smartphones from QNX’s tablet OS.
“The good news is that RIM is shipping something,” said mobile analyst Chetan Sharma, though he said this was “just a small step towards a comeback strategy.”
Analyst Jack Gold said success for RIM depends on how good OS 10 turns out to be, noting that the PlayBook 2.0 is showing “the true potential of QNX” and delivering “a pretty good user experience.”
Gold thinks BB10 would improve on the current BB7, with both the performance of the OS and device becoming “very compelling.”
“My only concern is that they try to be too much like old BlackBerry and not enough like new BlackBerry, meaning they have to up the game in user experience. If they do that effectively, while still not turning off the traditionalists in the BB base, they should do well,” he said.
“Unless developers have reach [into the install base in the market], they have no incentive to build something for the platform,” added Sharma, arguing that developers have precious little resources and that the industry’s focus remains on iOS and Android.
“If a successful company like Rovio puts these platforms front and center of their strategy, you can imagine what smaller developers will do,” said Sharma, noting that it would likely be a “tough slog ahead,” for RIM.
Gold, however, said RIM retains a loyal following that would be happy to see a new, improved experience. “But, having said all that, they probably won’t get a second chance to do it right,” he cautioned.
Only developers attending BlackBerry 10 Jam will receive the prototype, RIM said, noting that it would be unavailable as a commercial product. It also will not be made available to BlackBerry World attendees. RIM is encouraging developers interested in participating in the May event to sign up
as soon as possible.