BlackBerry goes back to basics with new phones
Barcelona, February 26, 2014
BlackBerry has unveiled a new, cheaper touchscreen smartphone and a "classic" model with a keyboard, as it tries to stem losses and win back once-devoted security-conscious business and government users.
The news, coupled with more details about the company's strategy in its services business, helped send shares in BlackBerry surging more than 9 percent.
The lower-end Z3 smartphone, priced at under $200, is being built under a partnership deal with FIH Mobile, the Hong Kong-listed unit of Taiwanese electronics company Foxconn Technology.
Code named Jakarta, the device will go on sale in April in Indonesia, where BlackBerry's BBM messaging service is proving very popular, said John Chen, who took over as the group's chief executive late last year.
"It's a 3G phone, and we have a plan to expand the phone to different parts of southeast Asia after Indonesia," he said at the annual Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona. "We have a plan to go global with an LTE (high speed 4G) version of it some time in the future."
BlackBerry, once a must-have device for every business executive and government official because of its pioneering secure email service, has haemorrhaged market share to Apple's iPhone and rival devices running on Google's Android software.
Opening its admired BBM messaging service to other operating systems - with Microsoft Corp's Windows Phone being the latest addition - has further hit BlackBerry sales, particularly in emerging markets. Research group IDC put BlackBerry's share of the smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2013 at just 0.6 percent, down 77 percent from a year ago.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Chen appeared on stage with Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, reflecting a burgeoning relationship that is set to deepen as the Taiwanese company manufactures the new, high-end "classic" BlackBerry.
The Q20, available before the end of the year, will have a traditional BlackBerry layout, aimed squarely at the company's original core business and government customers, Chen said.
The reintroduction of Blackberry's traditional keyboard was at the top of customers' wish list, he said. The line of keys that included the 'Menu,' 'Back,' 'Send' and 'End' buttons, along with a trackpad, had been dropped on its high-end Q10 keyboard device that was launched last year.
The lack of the familiar keys, coupled with the device's all new BlackBerry 10 operating system, had left many long time fans disenchanted with the Q10 device. - Reuters