RIM assures fans the keyboard will stay on BlackBerry

Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif displays BlackBerry's Curve 9220, which does have a keyboard. Research in Motion said yesterday it will continue to offer physical keyboards on future BlackBerry models.

Reports suggested RIM would ditch the physical keys that are favoured by its users, but chief executive Thorsten Heins said RIM won’t lose the focus on physical keypads. Touchscreen BlackBerrys without physical keyboards have largely flopped.

Heins had unveiled a proto-type touchscreen BlackBerry on Wednesday.

But he said the new line of smartphones due for release later this year will include both touchscreens and keypads. RIM spokeswoman Tenille Kennedy also confirmed that the new BlackBerry 10 operating system will include new phones with physical keyboards.

RIM’s stock closed down 5 per cent, even after the company insisted it would keep making phones with physical keys.

The Canadian company gave developers a prototype BlackBerry on Wednesday in an effort to help them develop apps for the new software system.

Heins acknowledged on Wednesday that RIM needs to improve its marketing and he has vowed to hire a chief marketing officer soon.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company has long dominated the corporate smartphone market. Its BlackBerrys are known for their security and reliability. President Barack Obama even refused to part with his BlackBerry after he took office.

But the once iconic company has had difficulty competing in North America with flashier, consumer-oriented phones such as Apple’s iPhone and models that run Google’s Android software.

Analysts say RIM’s future depends on the new BlackBerry 10 software platform, although many say it may be too late.

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