Research In Motion will debut a prototype of its upcoming BlackBerry 10 smartphone in May, with the intention of giving applications developers a crucial first look at the operating system.
That news comes from The Wall Street Journal, which quoted Alec Saunders, RIM's vice president for developer relations and ecosystem development, as saying the device handed to developers will not resemble the final smartphone, expected to debut sometime in the second half of 2012.
RIM clearly realizes that the BlackBerry 10 operating system s prospects for survival will only rise if it can offer prospective users a diverse apps ecosystem. During RIM's BlackBerry DevCon Europe conference in February, newly appointed CEO Thorsten Heins told the audience of developers that, without you, the BlackBerry solution wouldn't be complete.
That was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to RIM developer outreach. The company has also been handing out free PlayBooks at various industry events, with an eye toward having developers build apps for the tablet that can be ported onto BlackBerry 10.
During this past January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Saunders told eWEEK that developers working with HTML5 and WebWorks to create apps for RIM's PlayBook would have relatively little trouble with that app transfer once BlackBerry 10 hits the market. You may need to make some tweaks, he said, but your code base is preserved.
The past couple of years have demonstrated that mobile products live and die on the variety of apps on offer. Both Apple and Google devoted enormous resources to creating and nurturing their respective app platforms, and prospered; Microsoft is attempting to follow their example with Windows Phone and Windows 8. Platforms such as Hewlett-Packard s webOS failed to generate much interest from apps developers, and suffered accordingly.
RIM has the added challenge of attempting to persuade developers to create apps for a platform that doesn't yet exist, and whose code base is different from that which underlies previous versions of the BlackBerry OS. Apps developed using BlackBerry Java will not port onto BlackBerry 10, limiting developers working with those tools to BlackBerry 7 or older versions. Hence RIM's push behind the PlayBook as a BlackBerry 10 development platform.
The unveiling of the BlackBerry 10 prototype will also give the tech industry its first official look at the operating system that RIM hopes will allow it to reverse its fortunes in the smartphone market. Over the past several quarters, the Canadian phone maker has seen its market share decline in the face of aggressive competition from the likes of Apple's iPhone and Google Android.