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BlackBerry 10 'Qwerty' fans must wait

"Hardcore BlackBerry lovers" might have to wait up to two months after the release of the BlackBerry 10 touchscreen device to get their hands on one with a physical keyboard, a strategic play by Research In Motion that analysts say reflects what customers want.

RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins, who had already indicated a touchscreen model would launch first, said Friday that the keyboard version, known in the tech community as Qwerty, will come about "30 to 60" days later.

Heins said the company needs to gain market share in the touch phone segment, especially to address a trend in which employers are allowing staff to use their preferred smartphone for work.

"People... and enterprises love a full touch device, and, you know, we had to make a choice and finally we decided really to bring both versions to market very, very close to each other," he said in an interview with MSNBC.

"The BlackBerry lovers, the hardcore BlackBerry lovers, they love this physical keyboard ... so make no mistake we are fully, fully committed to Qwerty."

The physical keyboard is popular often with BlackBerry business users, and the company, in its advertising, has positioned that as an advantage over Apple and Android phones that rely solely on touchscreens.

The new detail about the closely watched BB10 launch, slated for some time in the first-quarter of next year, comes as RIM stock shot up 8.1 per cent following a much less disappointing than expected second-quarter earnings report.

Analysts were surprised and encouraged by the BlackBerry-maker's ability to shore up its cash reserves and subscriber base during the quarter, some had been projecting a steady decline in subscribers as the company honed in on becoming leaner by slashing costs.

But analysts also signalled that the company's ability to survive pales in comparison to the outcome of the much-delayed launch of BlackBerry 10, and whether that gets them back in the game with tech-savvy consumers.

RIM's smartphones running the new operating system will have to be able to compete with iPhones and Android devices, telecom analyst Anil Doradla said Friday.

"What happens in North America, specifically the U.S., plays out in the rest of the world in the course of a couple of years," said Doradla of Chicago-based William Blair & Co.

RIM is releasing a touchscreen phone first because that's what consumers want, Doradla said.

"They're trying their best to get back in the consumer game and touch is the name of the game."

"Are they at a point where one can believe they are going to be meaningfully competitive in this hyper-competitive Apple, Samsung world? We just don't know," Doradla said. "This company has let us down so many times in the past."

The Canadian Press
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