BlackBerry – Keyboard = Profit?

When is a BlackBerry not a BlackBerry? Research In Motion is hoping the answer isn’t “when there’s no keyboard.”

Yep, in one of several gambles designed to revive what sure looks like a dying brand, RIM is releasing at least one touchscreen model for the much-delayed BlackBerry 10 operating system. There’ll be others with physical keyboards, but it looks like another attempt to expand the brand’s appeal beyond security-conscious business users who need to type frequently.

This won’t be the first touchscreen BlackBerry: back in 2008 and 2009 two models known as the Storm had a mixed reception at best.

The logic this time round seems to be to target as wide an audience as possible, figuring that this can make even a small market share profitable. The biggest problem is that touchscreen immediately invites comparisons with iPhones, high-end Android models and even Windows Phones, and those comparisons may not be all that favorable.

Going for a wider audience also means targeting people who use smartphones as mini-computers rather than e-mail machines, and even if it’s a lost cause, RIM is trying to build up its apps range.

It’s offering cash rewards to developers who come up with moderately successful applications: if you develop an app, get it certified as meeting a quality standard (a process as yet unconfirmed), and do at least $1,000 in sales, you become eligible for a bonus. The bonus isn’t fixed: instead it’s simply a guarantee you’ll get at least $10,000 revenue in the first year, with the RIM bonus making up any shortfall.

Though RIM hasn’t confirmed this, there will surely have to be some protection against people simply paying enough friends and colleagues to buy the app to the tune of a thousand bucks and then collecting a pretty sweet return a year later.

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