Blackberry goes cross-platform as it unveils new devices

Blackberry Blackberry Leap

Blackberry Leap

Handset maker Blackberry has unveiled an “affordable” smartphone and announced plans for three other devices including a dual curved-screen “slider” phone and luxury smartphone.

The 5-inch $275 BlackBerry Leap will be rolled out in April and is designed for “rising stars” in business, the company said at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday.

The company’s CEO John Chen also showed off a not-yet-finished “slider” phone.

Blackberry Blackberry's "slider" phone

Blackberry’s “slider” phone

BlackBerry, has been struggling to gain any significant smartphone market, has also opened up a number of its key software assets to Android and iOS devices as it looks to widen the adoption of its services.

The Canadian firm already released its BlackBerry Messenger service to the other mobile operating systems last year but is now releasing its security and enterprise apps as well.

“We are committed to make software as a business…We are also going to make sure our software technology roadmaps addresses everybody’s phone,” Chen told reporters.


Later, Chen told CNBC’s Worldwide Exchange that the company was also working hard on innovating its hardware

“I’m really hopeful that our business is going to do well. In that last couple of quarters our hardware business actually made money,” he said.

Responding to criticism about the company’s low smartphone market share, Chen told reporters that the company could be in 99 percent of devices because it has opened up its key software to the Android and iOS platform.

As well as the Leap, BlackBerry outlined plans to release three other devices this year: a high-end “luxury” device with Porsche design, a “keyboard-based product”, and a “dual curved display” phone with keyboard function. More details are expected to emerge at a briefing later on Tuesday.

The news follows a number of device releases last year from the Ontario-based company including its flagship square Passport phone.

BlackBerry has highlighted the security on its Leap device and features such as Hub – a software that displays all messages from emails to texts in one place. Other features include 25 hours of battery life for “heavy use” and BlackBerry World and Amazon App stores.

Software ‘the future’

Chen has been trying to steady the ship and in the three months ending November 29, BlackBerry reported profit of 1 cent per share, compared to a loss of 2 cents per share in the previous quarter.

A large part of the CEO’s presentation focused on the partnerships BlackBerry is striking in the software segment. As well as releasing all many of their key services to other operating systems, Chen explained details of BlackBerry’s expanded partnership with Samsung, to integrate its encryption and billing services with the South Korean electronic giant’s security service called Knox.

Despite struggles to gain smartphone market share, analysts said BlackBerry has to remain in the devices segment, but software is going to be the key part of the business in the future.

“They can’t abandon devices and need to be invested. The devices they are teasing is underlining that they are confident they have a future,” Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight told CNBC.

“It was no accident that Chen spent that majority of the presentation talking about software and services because that is definitely the future of the business.”

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