Research In Motion will soon release a prototype BlackBerry 10
handset with a physical keyboard for developers to test applications on as it prepares to launch the new platform.
The company made the announcement today in Bangkok, where it is holding BlackBerry Jam Asia for developers.
The news is important for current BlackBerry users who are wedded to the signature physical keyboard and don’t want the touch keyboard RIM will have on other BB 10 devices. While millions around the world are embracing touch keyboards on Samsung Galaxy and Apple iPhones, a core of BlackBerry users refuses to adopt them.
It's also important for RIM because it wants tens of thousands of apps in its BB10 app store to show potential handset buyers the platform has a future. BB10 devices can't run apps on the current BlackBerry 5/6/7 operarting system, so they need to be ported.
The new unit – for accredited developers only – is part of the BlackBerry Dev Alpha program. The physical keyboard unit is dubbed Dev Alpha C. No photos of it were released.
So far over 7,500 Dev Alpha devices have been given to developers since May. About 1,500 developers will be eligible for a Dev Alpha C device and will be chosen by a points system.
Applicants will be given points based on a five factors, ranging from a promise to port an Android application to BB10 (50 points) to creating a Built-For-BlackBerry certified app (1,500) points.
RIM also said the Built-For-BlackBerry certification lab is now open, part of a program to put more money in the pockets of devlopers.
Developers can submit their apps for testing to earn the designation, which RIM says will signify a high-level of quality for customers. (For more information click here)
Certification comes after an app has been submitted on BlackBerry World application site and approved for sale. RIM will top up the amount an eligible developer earns on a BlackBerry 10 app to $10,000 if the app has been approved through the Built for BlackBerry program, and has earned a minimum of $1,000 over 12 months.
"Not only are you going to make more money," Alex Saunders, RIM's vice-president of developer relations told the BlackBerry Asia crowd, "you're going to make more money than developers on any other platform."
Also for developers, RIM said it will updated its BB10 software development kit on Dec. 11. This version will add support for installing the BlackBerry 10 IDE on Mac OS X, an update to the Visual Studio Plug-In beta, forward compatibility for BlackBerry WebWorks HTML5 apps, and sensor and orientation APIs for BlackBerry WebWorks.
"Developers asked for hardware to test their apps, and we delivered,” Saunders said in a statement. “They asked for the roadmap about the tools, and we posted it. They asked for RIM to show our confidence in developer success, and we're doing it. We've continued to refine and add on to our developer programs to ensure we are giving developers the best opportunities for success with BlackBerry 10."
In a separate announcement for enterprises, RIM released an upgrade to BlackBerry Mobile Fusion 6, its mobility management application for managing current models of BlackBerry together with Android and iOS devices. Service Pack 2 includes gatekeeping for Microsoft ActiveSync to limit access to managed and compliant devices; support for proxy servers for outgoing connections from the Universal Device Service; SCEP proxy for certificate provisioning; support for native ActiveSync configuration Android devices with Motorola EDM; and more flexible assignment for automated compliance actions to users and groups.
RIM [TSX: RIM]
says Service Pack 2 will help enterprises upgrade to BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 next year, which will allow organizations to manage Blackberry 10 devices along side the older BB5/6/7 handsets.