Traditional gardening advice suggests that blackberries aren’t ready to be picked until July or August but Research In Motion is giving software developers an early treat this year with access to BlackBerry 10 smartphones in May.

Up to 2,000 prototypes of the company’s latest device will be distributed to developers attending the BlackBerry Jam conference in Orlando, Florida.

The aim is to get the smartphones into the hands of engineers who can create apps for the new BlackBerry 10, working with software inside the phone that is based on the QNX software RIM bought two years ago and seen in the BlackBerry Playbook.

However, don’t expect the device given away free to software engineers to be the same phone consumers are offered at launch.

Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice-president of developer relations, told Bloomberg that both the look of the screen and the phone’s navigation will be very different from the product that is eventually released.

“The experience on this device from a consumer’s perspective is not in any way indicative of what the final experience on BlackBerry 10 will be like,” he said.

“We are holding that back to create the interest around that at launch time.”

RIM will be hoping that the BlackBerry Jam event, which runs parallel to the main BlackBerry World Conference from 1-3 May, will get developers back on board following a decline in its market share over recent years.

A 2012 survey showed that most software engineers now favoured working with the iPhone and Android operating systems over the BlackBerry.

Consumers can take heart from the fact that the BlackBerry 10 phone will use a very similar operating system to the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and be able to access around 10,000 existing apps.

“My goal is that every single PlayBook app works on BB10,” Saunders said.