Friday, June 22, 2012

RIM to go keyboardless with first BB10 phone

People love RIM's BlackBerry keyboards. Some love them so much that they won't switch to an Android device despite the availability of keyboards on some of those devices, as well.

If you are one of those, and you have been eagerly awaiting BlackBerry OS 10 and a new BlackBerry, get ready to be disappointed. The first device to sport that platform will have only a touchscreen, and no physical keyboard.

That's the word coming straight from the horse's mouth, meaning from RIM spokeswoman Rebecca Freiburger. It's not as though they will never be BB10 devices with a keyboard, but RIM declined to say when any would appear.

It is also unclear if RIM would offer a slide-out landscape-mode keyboard, like a Motorola Droid 4, or stick to its tried-and-true portrait mode keyboard - or even offer both. Given the love of BB device owners for its keyboard, Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial, was puzzled by the move. He said,

“The physical keyboard is the most dominant item that separates out Research In Motion from its competitors. If you are not playing to your historical strengths you may find it more difficult to get traction.”

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek however, said BlackBerry 10 is meant to close the gap with Android and especially iOS, so it is all about touch. Therefore, users should be unsurprised that the initial handset will only support a touch screen. Misek said,

“They are going to build a BlackBerry device with a keyboard, but it’s just going to take longer. Maybe it will come a month or two after, but frankly it might be already too late.”

Some believe it is already too late for RIM, with Android and iOS making inroads into corporate email systems. BB10 doesn't have a solid release date, but is expected to launch late this year.

RIM stock finished Thursday, June 21 at $10.07, down $0.27. Its 52-week-high is $33.54.

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