RIM may be giving up to 2,000 developers a BlackBerry 10 device at the BlackBerry Jam event in early May, but the company is keen to point out that we shouldn't extrapolate too much from either hardware or software about the next-gen smartphones. In fact, the OS running on the device - dubbed the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha - won't even be true BlackBerry 10, instead "a prototype running a modified version of the PlayBook OS which will help developers design their apps for the BlackBerry 10 smartphone form factor."
"This is not a BlackBerry 10 smartphone – it is a prototype running a modified version of the PlayBook OS which will help developers design their apps for the BlackBerry 10 smartphone form factor. Just to be 100% clear – it’s not the final hardware or OS for BlackBerry 10 – it’s a device to help developers get started with designing for what’s coming. BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha is only for developers – not end users – and is only available to developer attendees at BlackBerry 10 Jam" RIM
Although both the PlayBook OS and the upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS are each based on QNX, the latter will see significant tweaks and modifications versus RIM's tablet-specific software. From the sound of it, the BlackBerry software engineering team is doing some basic redesigning to get PlayBook OS running on a smaller, smartphone-scale device.
That should allow developers to get used to the new form-factor, but without giving away too many secrets about what, exactly, RIM has on the cards for devices and software. Still, getting app creators onboard early is a sensible move: RIM is presumably hoping it will have a reasonably broad range of third-party apps available when the new platform drops toward the end of 2012.
In fact, we may well have already seen the FrankenOS, in the shape of RIM's collaboration with Porsche and the QNX-powered concept car. That vehicle's dash-mounted display is actually, Crackberry suggests, a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device clad in a custom enclosure; they claim to have swiped at the screen and found identical page transitions to the PlayBook.