With BlackBerry Ltd. reshuffling its strategy deck, the smartphone maker is making a move back to its roots with the BlackBerry Classic, according to CEO John Chen.
In an interview with Maria Bartiromo of USA Today this week, Chen said the Waterloo, Ont.-based company was working on a new product called the BlackBerry Classic, “an updated and enhanced version of one of our most popular and successful products.”
It’s slated to include a touchscreen, “very fast Internet,” Web-browsing capability, and multimedia capability, as well as the physical keyboard that’s been a selling point for BlackBerry enthusiasts. But to appeal to business users, Chen asserted there’s also going to be a push towards productivity and security features.
The new phone should come out in November, alongside the server that businesses can use to manage devices.
Besides the news of a new, classically-inspired phone, Chen also said he doesn’t have any plans to sell the BlackBerry handset business. Despite reports he would consider selling that part of BlackBerry, depending on its performance over the next six to eight quarters, in his interview he said he felt the handset business still had potential to make money.
“Making money in the handset business starts with your material costs and the supply chain. The design is very important, the targeted market’s very important; the distribution efficiency is very important. Where the product is being represented us the pricing of that,” he said.
“All of this comes into consideration. I personally believe that I can make a go of the business and be comfortable.”
However, he fully expects BlackBerry to move beyond handsets and to expand into the Internet of Things space in the next few years. The goal would be to position BlackBerry as a company enabling people to connect all of their devices – for example, connecting their cars, appliances in their homes, and so on.
“If you look at that vision, you can see where we’re going to be a number of years down the road, and there is a device side of business, as well. The handset is the major driver of that. Security is a major driver of that,” he said, adding BlackBerry also has its QNX embedded operating system – one of the most profitable pieces of its business. Based in Ottawa, QNX has been building what’s branded as “infotainment systems” for linking smartphones to cars.
“And then, there is this whole server and network operating system behind it. We are the most secure and the most reliable messaging systems, both e-mail and BBM, which is the BlackBerry Messenger. So, those are another part of the anchor of the Internet — All Things Internet.”
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