BlackBerry had an unsurprisingly modest presence at this year’s MWC in Barcelona.
While the likes of Samsung, Nokia and Huawei screamed and shouted about their wares from their enormous stands in Fira Gran Vira’s heaving hallways, BlackBerry positioned itself on the 23rd floor of a remote office building, revealing two new devices and a whole heap of dreams.
CEO John Chen was in fine form, beginning his presentation with the kind of self-deprecating graveyard humour that’s winning him friends after 100 days at the helm of BlackBerry.
“Everybody asks me about the Facebook acquisition [of WhatsApp], for $90bn – which we don’t have!” he quipped. “Everybody wants to know about BBM.”
In his speech, Chen presented a new flagship smartphone, a new budget one, revised licensing and pricing for BES and, finally, some information about new monetisation strategies for BBM, all of which he said were a result of listening to customer feedback, and realising BlackBerry had “spread [itself] too thin” with attempts to focus too much on the consumer market with BlackBerry 10.
Whipping out the new, budget-aimed BlackBerry Z3 – codename Jakarta – Chen said that in “less than three months, we have the phone up and running” after signing a deal with Foxconn in December 2013.
“Sometime in April it will come out in Indonesia, for less than $200”, he added.
“It’s a 3G phone, but we have a plan to go global with an LTE version of it in the future.”
The next device was a more traditional keyboard phone “designed in collaboration with Foxconn”, which BlackBerry is calling the Q20.
The phone will restore fan favourite features such as Menu, Back, Send and End buttons, as well as feature an integral trackpad that BlackBerry hopes will speed up use of the phone, as well as introduce a higher degree of precision.
The release date for the Q20 is, said Chen, “before the end of the calendar year”.
“Most of our customers love our keyboards, and we gave them the keyboard phone – the Q10. But then for some reason, they don’t love it anymore,” joked Chen.
“It turns out that they liked the belt on top of the keyboard – that’s the little track pad, and the return button.
And so early on I met with my team, and Foxconn, and decided to listen to our customers and give them back our old productivity tool, with the belt.”
Foxconn’s Terry Gou said that he considers BlackBerry a “unique asset” for his company, and that Foxconn is “fully committed to supporting” BlackBerry in what will prove to be “a partnership [that] is a major force” in the industry.
John Sims, who joined BlackBerry from SAP at the end of 2013, was up next.
As president of global enterprise services, Sims made a wealth of announcements around the BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform, namely that it was being updated straight to BES 12 – a new build of the platform that is designed to bridge users from 5, 7 and 10, with legacy BlackBerry OS compatibility.