BlackBerry enthusiasts who favor the device’s traditional physical keyboard will have to wait to get one on Research in Motion’s new smartphone models.
RIM’s first set of phones running the BlackBerry 10 operating system will have touch-screen keyboards — but not physical ones.
Top-selling smartphones these days, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and several running Google’s Android software, also lack physical keyboards. But RIM’s attempts in the past to offer touch-only phones have largely flopped.
Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial, called it puzzling that RIM isn’t leading with its strength by releasing a keyboard BlackBerry first.
But Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said BlackBerry 10 is all about touch and closing the gap with Apple, so people should not be surprised that the initial model will have only a touch screen.
"They are going to build a BlackBerry device with a keyboard, but it's just going to take longer," Misek said. "Maybe it will come a month or two after, but frankly it might be already too late."
RIM might feel like it owes physical keyboards to its loyal users and enterprise customers. As CEO Thorstein Heins said in May, it “would be wrong -- just plain wrong” to lose focus on physical keyboards. He's probably right.
But if those keyboard-loving customers haven't already jumped ship, I doubt a couple of months is going to make a huge difference. It's better for RIM to focus one piece of hardware--one that represents where the industry is headed--than launch Blackberry 10 with a lackluster keyboard model just to appease a fraction of its shrinking customer base.