Feb. 1, 2012 at 5:39 PM ET
RIM’s newest BlackBerry will now look like all the other phones out there: A slim, flat black slab. Happy now?
Photos of the phone, code-named London, and also called the BlackBerry 10, surfaced on BlackBerry fan and news site CrackBerry.com. It appears to have no physical keyboard. (Although it is not the first BlackBerry without one, they're still the exception and not the rule.)
This phone, at least from the front view of it, could be mistaken for an HTC, Samsung, LG or your-brand-here phone with its appearance. Maybe those at Research In Motion feel this is what they need to do to catch the eye of the iPhone/Android-buying crowd, which now dominate smartphone sales, relegating the once-vaunted BlackBerry to the island of misfit phones.
It could also be that RIM's taking a page from its PlayBook tablet (which lives on the island of misfit tablets) with this minimalist design.
The Canadian company is seeking to rebound from a year of woes, and several years of losing market share, especially in the United States.
"Word has it that London is actually slated for the UK (go figure), while two other models — "Laguna" and "Lisbon" are in development for the US market targeting AT&T, Sprint and Verizon," said CrackBerry.com. "We wouldn't be surprised at all to see Laguna and Lisbon actually launched prior to London. With BlackBerry still the #1 Smartphone in the UK, it's in America that RIM needs to first make a big splash with BlackBerry 10."
Maybe this will be the phone to make that splash. RIM, contacted by msnbc.com, declined to comment on the photo shown above.
"It is RIM's standard policy to decline comment on rumors and speculation," a spokesperson said.
Al Sacco, author of the "Mobile WorkHorse" blog for CIO, wrote Wednesday that as a "long-time BlackBerry user, I'm a bit worried that RIM's touch-screen focus in BlackBerry 10 will leave me and other loyal RIM customers out to dry while the company focuses the majority of its efforts on touch devices aimed at consumer users."
If the final version of the BlackBerry 10 looks like everything else out there, it will be one less reason to buy a BlackBerry. And no matter what kind of changes the new RIM operating system brings, it will be impossible to catch up to the success of Apple and Android.
Meanwhile, for users like Sacco, who "value RIM's keyboard not just for typing, but for the ability to employ a wide variety of BlackBerry keyboard shortcuts for improved navigation and productivity," there's concern ahead.
"Many of us spent a long time learning and mastering those shortcuts to determine the most efficient ways to employ them," he wrote. It's beginning to look like BlackBerry will simply drop many of those shortcuts and other keyboard-based features."