Research in Motion took its first step towards reviving their ailing phone platform yesterday, handing out BlackBerry 10 prototype smartphones to developers at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando. There is little doubt that developers hold the key to turning around the Canadian phone maker's fortunes, especially with the upcoming QNX-based BlackBerry 10 OS set to be incompatible with current apps and handsets due to the shift from Java to C++ and QT with the new mobile OS.

Along with the hardware, those in attendace also received access to the BlackBerry 10 SDK so devs can now use real code on a real device ahead of the mobile OS' crucial launch later in the year.

The device features a 4.2-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1280x768 pixels, along with HDMI and Micro-USB ports. ZDNet was given a demonstration by Tim Neil of RIM, and commented that it felt much like a downsized BlackBerry PlayBook tablet -- though you'll be forgiven for thinking it looks more like the general design of an iPhone 4S, especially when viewed from the side or end.

That said, RIM has made it very clear that the rather nice looking handset is not a preview of models due to arrive later in the year, and was built purely for developers to code and test applications for the new platform. 

Developers will be disappointed if they were expecting a fully functioning device, however. As Neil described it, it's "very much stripped down", with just a browser and camera application installed. The messaging application and marketplace are not available, but since it's for developers to test the new Cascades user experience and code new applications, it shouldn't be an issue.

It's also missing the microSIM tray (it's uncertain if all of them are missing it) but it does include WiFi and the browser performance is good, even when loading HTML5 and Flash content. Interestingly, the included Near Field Communications (NFC) chip works with the phone turned off, enabling those using the device to exchange credentials and make payments without having the handset powered up.

"Developers building for BlackBerry 10 will be able to easily create the kind of cutting-edge apps that deliver truly engaging experiences and 'wow' customers, whether through integration with native features and other apps like BBM or by leveraging the new signature design elements of this new and powerful mobile computing platform," said Alec Saunders, RIM's vice president of developer relations and ecosystems development.

He continued, "the toolkit we are delivering today also meets developers on their own terms. Whether using the powerful Cascades framework, writing direct native code or developing in HTML5, BlackBerry 10 will empower developers to create attractive and compelling apps that excite customers."

Image credit: ZDNet