BlackBerry offers new phones, shifts focus

BlackBerry may be launching four new smartphones over the coming year, but the struggling company is staking its future on becoming a giant in software.


“We are committed to making software as a business,” Chen said at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona on Tuesday.

“We are going to evolve.”

The company that once popularised handsets with full keyboards has had to reassess its goals since sales failed to keep up with other smartphones in recent years.

Though it presented its new BlackBerry Leap on Tuesday – a “low-to-mid” market phone that will go on sale in Europe in April and be followed by three more handsets – its focus was on software.

In particular, it wants to make its more business-friendly applications, such as its messaging service, available to non-BlackBerry phones.

It will roll out over the next year the BlackBerry Experience, a set of three software packages crafted to improve security and communications for business and government customers.

It also presented its Work Life software designed to allow companies to separate billing and communications on employees’ smartphones used for both private and business.

The Canadian smartphone maker once commanded 50 per cent of the US market, but has seen its share evaporate as consumers flock to devices made by Apple and those run on Google’s Android operating system, like the popular Samsung models.

Chen’s major move to transform BlackBerry came in November, when it separated its most successful applications from its devices and made them available for the operating systems of would-be competitors.

It has since struck new deals to provide software to Samsung.

Chen said BlackBerry will try and strike a balance.

“We are going to compete with Samsung and we are going to collaborate with Samsung,” Chen said.

“We have a very small hardware percentage around the world today, so our strategy is to expand our server-available market by making it cross-platform. We can now have a business that spans 99 per cent of the market.”

Hardware sales still represent 73 per cent of BlackBerry’s revenues, and Chen said his vision is that devices and software become “two pillars” of his business.