The beloved BlackBerry physical keyboard won't disappear when the new generation of handsets is revealed later this year, the head of Research In Motion has told reporters.
"We don't want to give this up," CEO Thorsten Heins said Wednesday at a press conference during BlackBerry World. "It would be just plain wrong"
At least one news organization jumped to the conclusion that RIM's new BB10 devices will only have a virtual keyboard when a prototype was demonstrated here yesterday.
Apple Inc.'s hot-selling iPhone only has a virtual keyboard, as does the leading Android smartphone, Samsung's Galaxy II.
RIM's current lineup is dominated by handsets with its famous keyboard.
But Heins wanted to make it clear that a physical keyboard will be available in the BB10 line. However, he didn't say how many handsets running the new operating system will have it.
He also acknowledged that RIM has "an uphill battle ahead of us" in the U.S., where market share has plunged in recent months. One reason is there isn't an LTE version of the BlackBerry, he said. "But I'm strongly convinced that with BlackBerry 10 product we will be a strong contender in the U.S. again and I absolutely expect us to regain market share in the U.S."
Heins also said an LTE version of the PlayBook tablet will be released this year.
Also during the 45-minute session Heins talked about reorganizing the company, praised his staff for working long hours to bring out the new OS and vowed to be number one in the enteprise.
After taking over as CEO three months ago Heins said he went through the organizations and found that "here and there we have a little fat on the hips." Without talking about layoffs, he said he wants to make RIM a "lean mean hunting machine."
He's also overhauling the company's decision-making process, pushing accountability lower in the management chain.
"RIM is a fantastic collaborative company," he said but" it doesn't scale. Making decisions by consensus doesn't scale for a $20 billion company."
Nor was RIM's marketing and messaging focused. When the current BlackBerry 7 operating system and devices were launched last year, different regions had different messages to customers, he said.
He said he wants RIM to be "so focused that we could melt steel."
Still, when one reporter asked him why after three years with the company he was so surprised at its condition when he took over, Heins answered that he was occupied with overseeing the hardware and software for BB7 and the PlayBook tablet and hadn't seen other parts of the company.
He also stressed how important BB10 is to the company, that it not merely an operating system but a mobile enteprise platform.
Industry analysts have said how important it is that BB10 launch before the end of this year to prevent being crushed by Apple and Android sales, but also that it be glitch-free.
In that Heins agreed. "I want this BlackBerry 10 experience to be perfect. I want to wow people."
There will be bigger wow than came out of yesterday's demonstration of a BB10 prototype, he said. He emphasized that the demo ran not on a final version of BB10 but on the operating system used by RIM's PlayBook tablet -- although they share the same underpinnings.
However, he said it was important to show application developers -- who will have to port existing BlackBerry applications to the new operating system -- how easy it is to work with the application framework. RIM released beta versions of a number of tools this week to help developers.
In a separate interview, Andrew Macleod, RIM's managing director for Canada, said the company still has time to right itself.
"It's a great big world, it's a big market. We've seen terrific success with our BlackBerry 7 portfolio," he said. "Certainly we are experiencing challenges now, and we're focused like a laser on addressing those."
"We're very excited about the upcoming release of our BlackBerry 10 platform. We think we are really innovating in this space ... We're really focused on ensuring that when we bring BlackBerry 10 out it's addressing the needs of our customers, it's addressing the needs of the development community."