OTTAWA, Ontario — Research in Motion on Tuesday unveiled prototypes of the new BlackBerry 10 phone and operating system that the company hopes will be its salvation, in a form that looked quite rough around the edges. Among the features missing on the test phones given to software developers was the ability to actually make phone calls or access wireless networks.
With the final version of the phones, which RIM said would not be sold to consumers until late this year, the company will attempt to regain market share lost to Apple’s iPhone and phones that use Google’s Android operating system. The company is handing out about 2,000 of what it calls “alpha” versions of the phone to developers attending a company-sponsored conference in Orlando, Fla.
While the remarkably unfinished state of the test phones may add to RIM’s reputation for delivering products behind schedule and incomplete, Alec Saunders, the company’s vice president of developer relations, said it was necessary to get a “very, very stripped-down” version out to developers now to avoid a more serious problem later.
“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,” Saunders said in an interview Friday at a RIM office in Ontario where much of the new operating system was developed. “If we launch without applications, well, it will be slow.”
Apps have became an important selling point for smartphones since Apple opened its App Store. But current BlackBerry handsets have lagged well behind iPhones and Android phones in both the quantity and quality of apps available for them. The new BlackBerry 10 operating system will allow developers to create much more sophisticated BlackBerry apps, provided that RIM can persuade them that it is worth their while.