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BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha: Shape of RIM's future phones?

RIM's Dev Alpha test device could prove to be the template for BlackBerry smartphones to come.

BlackBerry World 2012
The BlackBerry Dev Alpha sets the bar for future BB10 smartphones, but is it high enough?
Brian Bennett/CNET

ORLANDO, Fla. --The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha test phone that RIM showcased at BlackBerry World 2012 will never be sold to consumers, but it likely represents how the company's flagship handsets will look, feel, and handle.

Clearly the Dev Alpha is a gadget meant only for BlackBerry developers to use as a tool in their efforts to create quality applications for BlackBerry 10. That said, it serves as the benchmark for all software development going forward. That's critical because all apps from now on need to hum along flawlessly on its specific internal components, screen, radio, camera, etc for RIM to give them the green light. I have also heard from BlackBerry developers at the show who confirmed off the record that the Dev Alpha's configuration is set pretty low to accommodate a wide range of software and potentially RIM-branded mobile devices.

Now I don't believe a touch-screen-only phone like the Dev Alpha signals the end of the iconic BlackBerry keyboard. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said as much here at the conference, stating, "The physical keypad isn't dead," and that "...the Dev Alpha devices are just one possibility for a form factor."

Still, as the minimal bar app developers must meet, I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that we'll be seeing one if not multiple big-screened keyboardless products from RIM. I'm sure we'll also see low-end handsets, too, as the company continues to target global markets. The recently announced BlackBerry Curve 9220 is good example of this tactic.

RIM isn't about to let a large product line distract it from its new mission of going after its core buyers. As Heins put it, "I want us to be so laser-focused we melt steel." Those are fighting words for sure.