The BlackBerry Passport smartphone was introduced on September 24th with a full physical keyboard, uniquely square large-screen design that increases the “readability” of web pages and e-mail. The rising attraction for corporate users is that the device’s software and hardware are optimized for a system-wide 256-bit AES encryption, online privacy protection and the ability to remotely locate and lock a phone.
John Chen, who took control of the company as CEO last year, has received allot of kudos for acknowledging that the “crackberry” mistakes caused their market share to plummet since the 2007 launch of Apple’s touchscreen iPhone and the 2008 introduction of Google-powered Android phones.
At the Toronto premier with video hosting in London and Dubai, Chen emphasized he’s determined to win back market share. Hockey-legend Wayne Gretzky gave a brief speech to support BlackBerry about what it is like to make a comeback and be a winner. “The reason why we’re here is to really try to get the Canadian people to rally behind us,” Chen said. “I need that help, badly.”
It would be a long road back for BlackBerry. Once the international market leader, IDC Research estimates that Apple shipped 32.5 million iPhones during this year’s 2nd quarter, compared to BlackBerry only selling 1.5 million phones.
But COO Marty Beard told the Wall Street Journal that Blackberry is committed to be a stand-alone hardware and software company: “Our security is unmatched and we do not want to lose that secret sauce” by partnering with someone like Google’s Android. “As our work and personal lives blend, people are going to want more work and identity protection than ever before on these devices,” Beard said.
The BlackBerry “”Messenger Protected” has end-to-end encryption, as does the BES email system. BlackBerry also recently introduced “Balance,” a feature that puts a secure barrier between your business and personal content and apps.
The Passport is actually the size of a passport with a square screen that measures 4.5 inches on the diagonal. It has a touch screen features and a physical keyboard, something traditional BlackBerry business users will prefer. The display shows 60 characters of “readable” text and allows enough depth to gain the context of a document. It will be valued as a business tool if you review and annotate documents.
The Silicon Valley News reported that the Passport will be available in the U.S. via A&T on an exclusive basis by the end of the year. It will also be promotionally available for $599 Amazon for a limited time. The company confirmed that they expect to release a more popular phone called the “Classic” later this year.
The BlackBerry pioneered the smartphone in 1999 and became the iconic Silicon Valley power tool for the tech community. But the company failed to innovate and its stock price and market share collapsed by over 90%.
But, as corporate and personal security issues have gained more traction since Edward Snowden’s revelations of massive government snooping. BlackBerry has also gained more visibility since its popular “Messenger” application is also now available on Apple and Android devices, plus the proliferation of in-vehicle infotainment systems and cellular enabled industrial machines all use BlackBerry’s QNX software systems.
The Passport looks a little strange, but it is definitely not another “crackberry” dud. Blackberry’s stock has doubled in the last year as many big corporate customers are considering migrating back to benefit from the phones’ more robust security features. Only time will tell if the company can make a comeback, but Passport is a good start.
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