TORONTO (AP) — The first BlackBerry device running Research In Motion Ltd.'s new operating software will not have a physical keyboard, only a touch-screen one.
The BlackBerry 10 software will be offered on devices with physical keyboards in the future, but RIM spokeswomen Rebecca Freiburger declined to say when. RIM is expected to start selling BlackBerry 10 touch-screen devices this year.
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.
Many corporate users have stuck with the BlackBerry solely because of its physical keyboard, given a perception that it's harder to type emails on a touch screen. The BlackBerry 10 system has already been delayed about a year, and with additional delays to get a physical keyboard, those people may not be willing to wait any longer, especially as the iPhone makes greater in-roads in corporate settings. Those users may simply get the new iPhone expected this fall.
RIM's hopes hang on the BlackBerry 10 system, which is meant to offer the multimedia, Internet browsing and apps experience customers now demand. The Canadian company is preparing to launch the new software later this year, just as North Americans are abandoning BlackBerrys for iPhones and Android devices.
Colin Gillis, an analyst with BGC Financial, called it puzzling that RIM isn't leading with its strength by releasing a keyboard BlackBerry first.
"The physical keyboard is the most dominant item that separates out Research In Motion from its competitors," Gillis said. "If you are not playing to your historical strengths you may find it more difficult to get traction."