'Stripped down' Blackberry 10 prototypes handed to developers

RIM’s new hot-seat occupant, CEO Thorsten Heins, has unveiled prototypes of the company’s new platform reboot Blackberry OS 10, complete with prototype handset at the Blackberry World conference in Florida this week.

Around 2000 attendees were given Blackberry 10 Dev Alpha handsets, not intended for consumer release, but for developers to test drive their Blackberry 10 apps. The company has also released its new Blackberry 10 developer toolkit.

The toolkit includes the BlackBerry 10 Native SDK with Cascades, which allows developers to create graphically rich, high performance native apps in C/C++ or the Qt Modeling Language (QML). The toolkit also includes support for HTML5 app developers with the BlackBerry 10 WebWorks™ SDK, allowing them to create native-like apps using common web programming technologies (HTML5, CSS and JavaScript).

It’s been a tough few months for the Canadian firm that once dominated the smartphone world, industry analysts IDC noted that the firm’s Q1 market share had dropped by half in the last 12 months to around 6.7%. Many will see the impending release of BB 10 as the firm’s last chance to retain its place at the top industry table alongside the like of Apple and Samsung.

RIM haven’t given much away in terms of device specifications, but the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha has a 4.2″ screen with a resolution of 1280×768. It has Micro USB for debugging and charging, a Micro HDMI port for displaying video on a television or monitor with a HDMI port. It also comes equipped with Bluetooth and WiFi radios and is cellular ready (micro SIM).

“It’s important to get this prototype into the hands of our partners now so that you can help us deliver the type of high-quality content that will make BlackBerry 10 so special,” said the Blackberry Blog. “With the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, you can test your apps on real hardware to work out interface, ergonomic and usability issues.”

Addressing the conference audience this week, Heins said that RIM was hitting the milestones it had set for itself. “I promise to you that the whole company is laser focussed on delivering on time and meeting your expectations,” he said.

However, the absence of a finished product in the flesh has rung alarm bells with some industry commentators, casting doubt on the company’s ability to produce the goods in line with its deadlines.

“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,” said Alec Saunders, RIM’s VP of developer relations, in an interview with the New York Times. “If we launch without applications, well, it will be slow.”

The full release of Blackberry 10 is expected later this year, and it’s clear that RIM is serious about getting developers on-side. The new OS has already received the backing of a number of big-name developers including Endomondo, Gameloft, Mippin, Occipital and Poynt.

“The support and excitement we already see from developers is both rewarding and encouraging,” said Martyn Mallick, RIM’s Vice President, Global Alliances and Business Development. “We are hearing every day from partners who want to start building and showcasing their work.”

Are you encouraged by RIM’s considered, developer-focused approach to this launch? Will you be checking out Blackberry 10? Here's the video shown by Thornton Heins during his keynote yesterday:

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