Blackberry's (BBRY) plan to quit making its Classic smartphone could herald the struggling company's withdrawal from the market, some experts think.
The BlackBerry Classic was introduced in 2014 as a replacement for the BlackBerry Bold, which was launched in 2008 and gained legions of fans because of its physical keyboard and unique design. But like other recent BlackBerry models, the Classic has done little to boost the company's share of the phone market, which is dominated by Apple and Android.
More recently, Blackberry has focused on growing its software business to make up for the decline in hardware, with mixed results.
"BlackBerry was the fastest-growing smartphone maker for more than a decade until Apple and Google came out with theirs, and that immediately threw them into a tailspin," said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst. "So now the question is when they are going to be pulling the plug on the device business altogether," he added. "I don't think it's going to be very long at all."
Blackberry, which disclosed its plan to halt production of the Classic in a Tuesday blog post by Chief Operating Officer Ralph Pini, did not specify when it will pull the plug or stop providing technical support for the device. Pini, who is also the company's general manager for devices, also noted that the Classic had remained on the market longer than many smartphones.
That view was echoed by technology analyst Rob Enderle, who said the device's long shelf life reflects its popularity despite a design that many would consider out-of-date.
"It's kind of surprising that the Classic hung as long as it did," he said. "The issue was it really wasn't very good on the web. They didn't have the right display. The web experience was much better on a larger-screen phone."
BlackBerry shares have plunged nearly 30 percent this year, with Wall Street growing increasingly skeptical that the company can execute on CEO John Chen's plan to shift from hardware to software sales. Blackberry has lost money for three straight quarters, and analysts expect the red ink is likely to continue.
Speaking to Wall Street analysts following the company's latest earnings report, Chen appeared frustrated that the devices business wasn't performing better. He has set a September deadline to turn around the division.
"I really, really believe that we could make money... out of our device business," Chen said in a June 23 call with analysts.