Research in Motion on Tuesday unveiled prototypes of the new BlackBerry phone hardware and software that it hopes will be its salvation, according to The New York Times.
Thorsten Heins, who took the CEO job in January, revealed features of the BlackBerry 10 operating system running on a prototype device at the company’s BlackBerry World conference in Orlando.
“Let me make be very, very clear with you. I’m here because I believe in the unique value that BlackBerry delivers to our customers,” Heins said.
The prototype smarphone, BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, features a 4.2-inch screen and the usual range of wireless and wired connectivity options, tells The Telegraph.
“I’m very, very confident we will be there later this year with an exciting product. Make no mistake, this is not the final device, this is not the final hardware,” Heins said.
“But it’s a very, very important milestone for us.”
RIM said 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.
The prototype BlackBerry has a touchscreen, but no physical keyboard like most BlackBerry models, says CBS News. One of the new features is a modified touchscreen keypad that will allow users to select full words with a single key stroke.
The new operating system is widely seen as the last chance for RIM to recover from a series of strategic blunders including failing to respond to the threat from iOS and Android’s user-friendly interfaces, and the disastrous launch of the PlayBook tablet.
“The reason why we’re doing this – which is unprecedented for us, and it’s quite uncommon in the industry – is because we want to create a wave of application support behind the new BlackBerrys before we bring them to market,” Alec Saunders, the company’s vice president of developer relations, told The New York Times.
Analysts predict RIM’s future depends on the new BlackBerry 10 software platform, although many say it may be too late.
According to Reuters, Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners, said Heins’ presentation only served as a reminder of the tough road the company has ahead as it prepares for the make-or-break BlackBerry 10 launch.
The once iconic company has had difficulty competing with flashier, consumer-oriented phones such as Apple’s iPhone and models that run Google’s Android software.
Shares of the BlackBerry maker have dropped about 70 percent over the past 12 months. On Tuesday, RIM closed down 5.8 percent at C$13.31 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“The bulls have disappeared from the scene as far as RIM is concerned,” said David Cockfield, managing director and portfolio manager at Northland Wealth Management. “There is no investor confidence in RIM at all. It will have to do something fairly spectacular to turn things around.”
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said Heins gave a good speech in front of a bigger-than-expected crowd but said someone at RIM should have given the speech a year ago.
“I just get the feeling that I wish they had it out already. It’s going to be a challenge for them. When they launch BlackBerry 10 devices the iPhone 5, Windows 8 and all the Android devices will all be out,” Misek said. “It sure does feel like it’s getting close to being too late.”
The new BlackBerry software and hardware is due out in Autumn, but has already suffered delays. If it does deliver on its current schedule RIM is likely to come up against the iPhone 5, as well as smartphone operating system updates from Google and Microsoft.