Is RIM considering ditching physical keyboards altogether?

Is RIM considering ditching physical keyboards altogether?RIM has been having a pretty miserable time of it lately, so in a sense there's no reason not to consider a fairly radical change of tack as it seeks to break the mould and turn its fortunes around.

But even so we're pretty surprised to see rumours that the once-mighty business phone brand could be considering ditching physical keyboards altogether for future handsets running the next-gen BBX platform.

It's all to do with apps and aspect ratios. Speaking to PCMag, RIM's vice-president of developer relations and ecosystem development Alec Saunders revealed that its BBX handsets will run the same 1024 x 600 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio as the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, meaning apps written for one will look identical on the other.

“Look, if you build [an app] for the PlayBook, then it will run on BBX. We have maintained aspect ratios, BBX also has the ability to upload multiple dimension graphics … [and the standard resolutions] are the same as PlayBook,” Saunders commented.

That fits with the rumours we've been hearing about the BlackBerry Colt, the first BBX handset that RIM is lining up for launch in the first half of next year. The Colt not only has no keyboard, it appears to be completely button-free altogether, which would be a remarkable turnaround for a brand that built its reputation around typed messaging on a physical QWERTY keyboard.

The million dollar question, of course, is whether the handsets following the Colt will also be button-free. After all, the aspect ratio is easy enough to scale upwards and downwards, but if RIM is specifically trying to standardise the 1024 x 600 pixel count across the board, it'll do well to achieve that on a screen small enough to sit atop a physical keyboard like on the BlackBerry Bold.

Saunders also confirmed some of the other rumours that have been doing the rounds on the Colt and BBX – including that it will have complete cross-platform compatibility with the PlayBook, and that includes features such as native email and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) support

“I think you're seeing an evolution of a platform … you should not expect [BBX] to be behind the PlayBook,” he commented.

Well, that's a relief.

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 1 comment

JanSt / MOD  Nov. 11, 2011 at 07:32

That's reading a bit much into it, isn't it?
There are still plenty of gaps in the AppWorld if you own the original Torch. For BB 7.0 those gaps are extra large. RIM doesn't seem to bothered by that. Most owners of the Bold 9900 aren't, either. E.g. RIM still hasn't released the new theming platform for OS 7.0 - so no themes. Loads of games and utilities aren't available, either, yet.
I don't see why they wouldn't take the same approach for BBX?! Get the full monty on ts devices, and the 'classic' functionality with physical keypad models.
We'll see...

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