Research In Motion (RIM) is pulling out all the stops at this week’s BlackBerry App World, unveiling a BB10 prototype complete with a new virtual keyboard.
The New York Times reports
the BB10 prototype—an alpha version according to RIM—is very bare bones and has no ability to make calls or access wireless networks. Still, RIM is getting it into the hands of developers early in the hopes of enticing them to have apps ready when the new handset rolls out toward the end of the year. The prototype also no longer has RIM’s signature QWERTY keyboard. Instead, it is sporting a smart virtual keypad that not only learns what its users type most often, but also adjusts to help users avoid repetitive typing mistakes. CNET reports
RIM also reduced the latency in displaying letters to near zero so that heavy-duty BlackBerry users will be able to type as “quickly and effortlessly” as with RIM’s signature physical keyboard.
Yankee Group Associate Analyst Katie Lewis comments
“Putting the BB10 prototype into the hands of developers early, despite its unfinished state, is a solid risk-mitigating strategy for RIM but the decision to eliminate the QWERTY keyboard in its first wave of devices is a risky one. Mobile applications have become a huge smartphone selling point. According to Yankee Group’s 2012 US Consumer Survey, March, 58 percent of consumers who bought a mobile phone in the last six months or intend to buy one in the next six months say the selection of apps is of extremely high importance when deciding what device to purchase. On the other hand, 58 percent of these same respondents indicated that a full QWERTY keyboard was of extremely high importance when deciding which mobile phone to buy. So, consumers will be pleased to have an up-and-running app store available for their new BB10 smartphones but may not be so impressed by the missing QWERTY keyboard, a vanishing feature many BlackBerry loyalists know and love. Can the new virtual keyboard steal enough customers from iOS and Android to compensate for those QWERTY keyboard-loving customers lost by this update?”