It seems BlackBerry will be all about Android this year. Hello Priv.
For BlackBerry, 2016 will be an all-Android year when it comes to its newest phones.
The company plans to release one new product, and potentially a second phone, this year. Both will run on Google’s mobile software, CEO John Chen confirmed in an interview with CNET at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
His comments come on the heels of news that Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint will sell the BlackBerry Priv, its first phone running on Android, following a 60-day exclusive deal with AT&T.
For those of you diehard BlackBerry fans — a shrinking, but fiercely loyal group — it’s bittersweet news. Yes, BlackBerry will continue to exist, but there won’t be any phones running on its own BlackBerry 10 software, which the company spent the last few years struggling to push. But the confirmation of future Android BlackBerry devices means everyone else gets an alternative to the usual mix of Samsung, LG or HTC Android phones.
Chen declined to comment on timing or details of the planned phones.
But roughly two months into sales of the Priv, and it’s “so far, so good,” Chen said. “I’m taking a cautiously optimistic view.”
Phone sales are like movie premieres: there’s excitement that first weekend, but what’s critical is how much interest is left as time goes on. “The question is, does it last?” he said.
BlackBerry opted to limit its initial launch of the Priv to just a few carriers, including AT&T in the US. While Chen admitted that he was concerned about momentum waning down the line, he said there wasn’t much of a choice. He didn’t have the resources to do a massive rollout with every carrier to ensure you could buy the phone anywhere.
“I don’t have the luxury,” he said.
But is he concerned about getting steamrolled by the competition and the ever-improving phone landscape? “We will have to take a close look at it,” he said. He added that he didn’t believe there were any new phones that would wipe out the competition, but said it was logical that the price of the Priv would go down over time. BlackBerry plans to hit 31 countries over the next few quarters.
Still, Chen said he’s “confident in profitability this year.” That’s important because Chen said BlackBerry pegged 2016 as a make or break year for the phone business. If the company continues to lose money, he would look at dumping it.
As for you BlackBerry 10 fans, don’t lose hope. Chen wouldn’t outright say he was abandoning the software. This year, the company is focused on getting national security certification for BlackBerry 10 so the devices can be used in certain government and corporate projects. The company would continue to offer the BlackBerry Classic and older devices, but it isn’t investing in new hardware.
His hope is the Priv improves the viability of the business, repairs the brand and opens up the distribution for the company to eventually make another BlackBerry 10 phone. He said it was too early to talk about those plans.
But it looks like the BlackBerry faithful will have to exercise extreme patience.