To be sure, the company, whose products were once so popular that it earned the nickname “CrackBerry,” has a long way to go before it can reclaim any lost ground. But the worst, at least for now, appears to be over.
After flailing around for years, BlackBerry has a new strategy that investors seem to like. For one thing, it’s not going to try to beat the iPhone and Android. That battle is over. Instead, BlackBerry is going back to what worked in the past, and that includes a new, high-end phone with a physical keyboard — a defining feature of its older phones and one that some customers missed. That new phone, called the Q20, will be available before the end of the year.
The company also on Tuesday unveiled a lower-end model that will cost less then $200. That phone, called the Z3, will go on sale in April in Indonesia and then expand to other parts of Asia.
In another strategic shift, those phones are the first ones to be made in a new partnership with Foxconn. BlackBerry is outsourcing the production of its phones to the Chinese contract manufacturing firm in order to concentrate on developing software for its new devices. That includes a fresh focus on its BlackBerry Messenger service, known widely as BBM. The service has about 85 million active users, and BlackBerry is touting its security for business clients.
CEO John Chen is also dropping hints that he might be willing to sell BBM. “If somebody comes to me with $19 billion, I would definitely sell it,” he told CNBC.
He was referring to the jaw-dropping amount Facebook (FB) is paying for the WhatsApp messaging service. That whopper of a deal certainly called attention to the messaging sector, and BlackBerry’s platform stands out from the others because of its security.
Ford (F) gave BlackBerry something else to celebrate this week. The automaker is using software from the company’s QNX automotive unit for its Sync infotainment systems, USA Today reports. Drivers use those systems to control their phones by voice in the car. Ford had earlier partnered with Microsoft (MSFT) on the Sync system, but will now switch to BlackBerry, the newspaper reported.
Investors have new hope for BlackBerry, and have been snapping up shares. The company’s stock price has swung back to $10.60 after falling below $6 in December. It’s a show of faith in Chen, who was appointed CEO of BlackBerry last November.
It’s also an acknowledgement that BlackBerry, after years of bad decisions and ho-hum phones, may finally be turning things around.