RIM: BlackBerry 10 phones with physical QWERTY in pipeline

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has insisted that there will be QWERTY-keyboard blessed BlackBerry 10 handsets when the new platform launches, despite the developer device being touch-only. The company prompted speculation yesterday that it was shifting away from its legendary hardware keyboards, when it confirmed plans to distribute a full-touch BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha to developers attending BlackBerry World 2012 this week, and spent keynote time demonstrating a new on-screen keyboard with predictive text.

That predictive technology eschews the current UI for touchscreen text entry – where words are suggested in a bar running across the top of the virtual keyboard – and instead creates a cloud of possible words around the users' thumbs. There they can be easily swiped-to, rather than shifting fingers up to above the keyboard.

However, for those addicted to RIM's physical 'boards, the focus on touch seemed like a worrying portent. Not to worry, says Heins. What was shown during the keynote was simply "a portion" of what's to come with BlackBerry 10, and there will definitely be a QWERTY option in the company's portfolio.

"We [have] the best physical keyboard on the planet" Heins boasted. "We don't want to give that up."

Nonetheless, industry and market reaction to BlackBerry 10 has been mixed, with RIM's stock price ditching in after-market trading as the Canadian company's suggestions that it hadn't wanted to rush BlackBerry 10 failed to satisfy. RIM is yet to commit to a specific release date for handsets running the new software.