BlackBerry Ltd has been sending out series of mixed signals about what it intends to do with the hardware side of its business. It is no longer news that BlackBerry’s smartphones has lagged behind Apple’s iPhones and devices running on Google’s Android OS. In fact, it appears that Microsoft’s Windows phones have a bigger share of the smartphone market than BlackBerry.
BlackBerry’s software business has been the key to its turnaround as the firm continues its pivot into an enterprise solutions giant. Yet, the can’t seem to take its eyes off the hardware market. CEO John Chen has once said that BlackBerry is iconic in the smartphone space and it doesn’t just feel right for the firm to stop making smartphones.
It is on this note that leaks of Blackberry Passport “Silver Edition” got out ahead of the official release. CrackBerry reports that “Silver Edition” of Passport will soon be hitting the markets. The “Silver Edition”, which isidentical to the original device has a premium form factor that appears to be made of Aluminum – think iPhones. The “Silver Edition” is the same device that fans has named “Dallas” it will sport the same 4.5-inch display, a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, and a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera that was in the original Passport.
A Handful of Phones in the Pipeline
The Silver Edition of Passport is not the only device that attests to BlackBerry’s inability to kick its smartphone habit. There have been rumors in the grapevine that BlackBerry is planning to make two Android phones – “Venice” and “Prague”. There are also reports that BlackBerry and Samsung are teaming up to make a new smartphone.
Then, there is the BlackBerry Classic, which looks like the traditional Bold 9000 with its physical keyboard and form factor. Classic however runs BB10 OS and it has all the latest perks of the new BB10 devices. T-Mobile is selling the device at a $70 discount to BlackBerry’s store price – carriers are probably still in love with the firm.
To Pivot or Not to Pivot
BlackBerry Ltd’s recent hire of a Cisco executive is one of the signs that BlackBerry is serious about focusing on the software business. However, one cannot help but wonder if the talks about a software pivot are not just words to obtain the goodwill of investors and analysts. CEO John Chen has said the Q2 earnings call that “I don’t want to give up on the hardware business… I think there’s still a shot at making money in the hardware business.”
Analysts still consider BlackBerry a high-risk play. For instance, Morning Star analyst Brian Colello said, “the firm will continue to be a risky investment in the long term. Despite its attempts to monetize on its software, it’s highly likely that it’ll only break even”.
It is clear that BlackBerry doesn’t want to take an all-or-nothing gamble with a software pivot. Hence, John Chen was being brutally honest when he said the firm will make “maybe two, maybe one” phones per year.