BlackBerry scrambles to make money, fails. Here's its last Android gasp

BlackBerry CEO John Chen speaks to friendly press. He makes it clear 2016 is make-or-break. But the year started really badly.

Blackberry Android Rome Hamburg

BlackBerry continues to fail, admits CEO Chen. Sales in the first three months were awful, and he’s not backing down from his threat to quit the phone business.

John Chen’s mea culpa comes in the form of admitting the Android-based PRIV was too expensive. He won’t say just how few BlackBerry sold, but it doesn’t sound like many.

Chen, then, is pinning his hopes on two new Android smartphones expected later this year. According to the rumor-mill, they’re codenamed Rome and Hamburg. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers draft the final eulogy for BlackBerry.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

What’s the craic? John Everington reports from Abu Dhabi—BlackBerry switches focus:

BlackBerry [admitted] that its recent flagship Android device...was priced too high. ... John Chen [said] BlackBerry plans to launch two mid-range Android handsets.

BlackBerry last week announced it had sold just 600,000 handsets [in Q1] well below analyst forecasts. ... Chen declined to say how many Privs had been sold. [But he] insisted that BlackBerry’s secure Android...appealed particularly to enterprise consumers.

But [it's] once again revived speculation that BlackBerry [will] call time on its handset division. ... Chen said that while BlackBerry would continue to release updates...there were no plans to launch new devices running [BB10].

[He said] the company would exit the segment if it could not achieve profitability. ... “I love our handset business, but we need to make money.”

And that’s a big but. Rock me, Ron Amadeo—BlackBerry plans to launch two mid-range Android phones:

If you haven't been following along, BlackBerry is now an Android OEM [since] the end of 2015. The Priv was $700.

Chen's comments line up perfectly with a very blurry image that appeared last week [from] Dylan Habkirk. [But] BlackBerry has a lot riding on the success of its Android devices.

The jeapordy: It burns! Dante D’Orazio pours gas on the inferno, asking if the new phones will fare better than the $699 Priv?:

Chen now admits that the Priv was a misstep. ... (The Priv's price was recently dropped to $649.)

Rome and...Hamburg, will target a mid-level price point [likely] a sub-$500 price off-contract. [They] represent Chen's last attempt at keeping BlackBerry as a hardware company.

As with all rumors, standard disclaimers apply. Dylan Habkirk rounds up what he’s heard:

Hamburg [is] an upcoming BlackBerry handset that John Chen has mentioned to be a mid-tier device. [It] features a large all-touch LCD display. [It] may have a front facing loudspeaker. [It] takes the form factor of the Z30 in many ways.

Rome [is] not due out until after the Hamburg...device. [It has] two new hardware additions that have not been on a BlackBerry handset before. [It] is aiming to be a flagship spec device [with] a physical keyboard.

But what’s all this about PRIV being a premium device? Abner Li argues it’s not:

Chen said their first device running Android “was too high-end a product.” [But] for all the talk of [it] being a high-end product, it had pretty standard...specs. 
Its Snapdragon the same as found on the Nexus 5X. [He] previously said the company will exit the hardware business if they cannot reach profitability...this year.

What we need now is a pithy summing up. Release the ’Cracken!

[You're fired -Ed.]

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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