RIM handed out alpha prototype phones of BlackBerry 10 to 2,000 developers today. The prototypes can’t yet make phone calls or connect to Wi-Fi. The hardware is still “pokey” and there is still much software optimization to do.

So why give out these devices in their current sad state? Alec Saunders, VP of Dev. Relations, has the answer:

The reason why we’re doing this — which is unprecedented for us and it’s quite uncommon in the industry — is because we want to create a wave of application support behind the new BlackBerrys before we bring them to market. If we launch without applications, well, it will be slow.

What else is odd is that the operating system on the phones isn’t even BlackBerry 10. As Dieter Bohn reports with his hands on review of the device:

As far as the OS goes, this is almost entirely the PlayBook OS, not BlackBerry 10. Although RIM says that it has built-in some of the hooks and calls that will be part of BB10. The idea is for developers to begin building their apps now and test them on phone hardware so they’re ready when RIM releases actual hardware.

The BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha Developer Testing Device