03/23/2012 04:56 EDT | Updated 05/23/2012 05:12 EDT

RIM offers BlackBerry 10 to developers

Research in Motion has been criticized in the past for not having enough apps for their devices, so before the BlackBerry 10 launches, it wants developers in on the ground floor.

The company says it will provide prototype devices to app developers to use as a testing platform. They will be handed out in May at a developers' conference in Orlando, Fla.

The device will be called the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha, but will only resemble the finished product. RIM stresses that the phone and its pre-loaded software are not the official products, and the operating system in particular is not a final version of BlackBerry 10.

Instead, the phone will contain a modified version of the software used on RIM's PlayBook tablet, "which shows the path to the BlackBerry 10 OS."

"This device will allow developers to test the applications they are building with our BlackBerry 10 tool sets," RIM said in a release.

RIM has said its first phone with the new BlackBerry 10 operating system is expected sometime late this year.

RIM is pinning much of its hopes on its next smartphone. Last year, Apple's iPhone overtook the BlackBerry in Canadian sales for the first time.