Blackberry Pins Hopes on Flagship Phones (Again)

by Matt Klassen on February 27, 2014

There’s no question that Blackberry has undergone radical change under the watchful leadership of CEO John Chen, evidenced no more so than the deep cuts to the company’s management structure aimed at changing Blackberry’s flagging corporate mentality. Brutally honest and suffering no illusions about the future of his company, Chen has charted a new way forward for the Waterloo company, making bold moves like diffusing Blackberry Messenger across other mobile platforms.

This week Chen hinted that the company’s continued recovery will hinge on forthcoming flagship phones, taking some time at the annual Mobile World Congress to tease us with talk of bigger and better smartphones to come, ones that will entice new customers and satisfy those still dedicated to the company.

But haven’t we heard all this before? For years Blackberry has pinned its hopes on flagship phones, premiere mobile devices tasked with the Herculean job of satisfying the company’s dwindling loyal user base while cocomitatly attracting a steady flow of flesh blood to the Blackberry product line…and its never worked.

If you recall, Blackberry CEO’s have long teased the world with promises of revolutionary flagship mobile devices that will assuredly revive the company, returning it to its former glory. In fact it was just over a year ago that former CEO Thorsten Heins uttered similar words about a phone that would change everything, which turned out to be the Blackberry Z30, a phablet that faded so quickly into obscurity that I’d never even heard about it until today.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not overly enthusiastic about Chen’s promises of greater things to come, as for years flagship phones have been produced only to end up in the mobile bargain bin a few short months later.

But the difference between now and then could be Chen himself, as the dynamic, quick-witted and brutally honest leader of Blackberry has no illusions about the chances his company has at recovery, knowing it will take everything he, his business, and the company’s entire user base have in order to turn things around and rediscover profitability.

To that end it seems Blackberry has learned some important lessons, chief of which is that in order to satisfy the hardcore Blackberry faithful the company simply can’t throw a QWERTY keyboard on a Blackberry 10 device and hope it sells. So the Q20, one the devices expected to hit shelves this year, will bring back several ‘classic’ Blackberry features such as the physical call, end call, menu, and back buttons, as well as a track pad, as well as mimic features from the original software like how email is accessed and the cut-and-paste function.

Simply put, Blackberry is creating a phone for those who love their old Blackberrys, hoping the Q20 will bridge the gap and bring those loyal users into the modern age of the company.

But there’s no way Blackberry can survive by simply placating its dwindling user base, it needs to go on the offensive, attracting new users to the company’s updated product line. Chen knows it, he hopes one of the new flagship phones will deliver, but if history tells us anything it’ll be that these phones will likely fade into obscurity before we ever know they’re here.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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