Last month, while speaking at the Code Mobile conference in California, US, BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen said the company’s hardware business needs to turn a profit next year. “Otherwise, I have to think twice about what I do there.”
The Canadian firm is taking a rather strange step this time around as it continues in its determination to remain in the smartphone market. Blackberry Ltd. is launching a new smartphone that will run on the Android operating system. This could be the last attempt by the company to save its smartphone business which has continued its decline since losing out a huge chunk of its market share to Samsung and Apple.
Blackberry is hoping that its new phone “PRIV” which takes it name from privacy and privilege will win some consumers back, considering the new access to Android’s over 1 million apps and as much security as a phone running on the Blackberry 10 operating system.
Many fear the ‘Priv’ will be another failure as Chen did not exude confidence in the product when he spoke about it in October. However, he dismissed opinions he is not sure the product would do well.
“I have 100% confidence in our new PRIV smartphone,” he wrote in a blog post in October. “Not only will it bring BlackBerry’s strong privacy DNA to the Android platform, but PRIV will deliver top-of-the-line features for your maximum productivity, including an oversized screen and, underneath it, a smooth sliding mechanism that unveils the iconic BlackBerry keyboard.”
Android dominated the smartphone market with an 82.8 percent share in 2015 Q2, according to IDC. Blackberry will be hoping the unique features of the PRIV will earn it part of this market. BlackBerry shipped 800,000 smartphones, its lowest number since 2007, in the quarter that ended August 29.
Chen had often said that Blackberry would not stay in the device business if it is not profitable. However, he wrote, “we are doing everything possible to make our devices profitable”.
He adds: “I’ve also consistently said that BlackBerry’s future is in taking our security expertise into the software arena.”
Chen is working to reach $500 million in software revenue by March 2016. To achieve this, the company has acquired WatchDox, AtHoc, and Good Technology, which cost it $425 million. The company said the deal will contribute about $160 million in revenue in the first year.
While the world awaits the Blackberry PRIV, the company would hope it has done enough this time around to make its smartphone business return to profitability.
According to Chen, “…our ability to patch vulnerabilities much faster than other Android smartphone makers,” among other features, is “why I firmly believe PRIV will be MORE resilient than everything else.”
For Chen and Blackberry’s sake, we hope the PRIV sells. If it does not, it may be the last device Blackberry makes.
PRIV opens at a retail price of $699 in the US.