RIM Won't Abandon Hard Keyboards In BlackBerry 10

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Orlando, Fla. - Research In Motion (RIM) used an early prototype of a touchscreen-only smartphone to demonstrate key features of its planned BlackBerry 10 OS, but the company vowed that it would not abandon phones with its signature hard keyboards.

During the company's BlackBerry World event here, president/CEO Thorsten Heins said BlackBerry 10 will also be offered on products with physical keyboards in the future. "We make the best physical keypad in the world," he said. "We know what our strength is."

The company also unveiled a beta toolkit that developers can use to begin writing apps that will run on both Android and BlackBerry 10 phones to encourage app development in time for a BlackBerry 10 smartphone launch sometime later this year. The apps would run on BlackBerry 10 smartphones and a next-generation PlayBook tablet that would also run on the OS.

In other comments at the event, Heins said the company is close to close to hiring a chief marketing officer to deliver a consistent, unified message for the next-generation OS in contrast to multiple messages used to promote current-generation products.

In demonstrating some of the key new OS features, Heins showed a new touchscreen keyboard with large buttons and a modeling algorithm that promotes accurate typing by learning where a user presses a particular key. The keyboard also recognizes swiping gestures that can be used to pull up symbols and numbers and to backspace.

The OS also uses gestures to pull apps off to the side of the screen to expose other live apps running underneath or to open another app.

Improved camera functionality includes a "step-back-in-time" function. Users highlight a specific area of a picture, such as closed eyes, to go back to a point in time when the person's eyes were open. The final image would show the eyes open but keep the rest of the image unchanged.

Also at the event, sales and marketing executive VP Patrick Spence said the company shipped 11.1 million devices worldwide in the first three months of 2012. That's down from a year-ago 13.2 million but equal to the company's previously announced 11.1 million in the fourth quarter. The company's first-quarter shipment exceeded the more than the 8.9 million devices shipped by Motorola Mobility in the first quarter.

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