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Mar 6, 2014

BlackBerry: To Be or Not to Be, That Is the Question

BlackBerry is trying for the second time to become a major player on the mobile phone market, but for the first time this is also a matter of survival for the Canadian company.

Since Thorsten Heins took leadership of BlackBerry back in January 2012, the company continued to bleed money to the point that even Windows Phone, a brand new mobile platform, managed to surpass it in well-established markets. The legendary BlackBerry security and reliability traits took a huge blow with the major outage from October 2011, which was also one of the reasons Heins was appointed new CEO and President of BlackBerry while the company’s founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis stepped down. Unfortunately, the strategy for turning BlackBerry’s financial status around failed during Heins’ reign, which led to another dismissal from the company’s leadership position. The newly appointed CEO John Chen hopes to regain some of the market share lost by BlackBerry in the last couple of years, but unlike his predecessor he seems more realistic about the chances for success.

In a recent interview for Financial Times, he bluntly stated there’s a 50:50 change that he would be able to save the company. Mr. Chen seems rather pragmatic in his statements and has already set certain goals his company needs to achieve in order to survive. One such goal is to turn BlackBerry’s cash flow on the positive side by the end of this fiscal year, which is no small feat for a company that did not know profit for a very long time. This would be the first step for BlackBerry in regaining some of its former glory, but Chen aims a little higher and hopes the Canadian handset maker might one day become a “dominant player” in the smartphone market. BlackBerry’s chances for survival are not intertwined with Chen’s abilities to turnaround the company’s negative status. He proved his skills while leading Sybase, a database software business, which had a similar financial history and managed to survive thanks to Chen.

Will he be able to do it again with BlackBerry? Well, as Chen has put it, there’s a 50:50 chance for him to succeed since, as compared with the Sybase turnaround, BlackBerry’s one is “a bit more challenging.” The first thing Chen did was identify ways to conquer the low-end smartphone market in some countries previously considered BlackBerry’s fiefs. The result is the newly announced BlackBerry Z3, which will be manufactured by Foxconn and will cost under $200 (€145). The smartphone will be launched in April in Indonesia through all major carriers, and if it proves successful, Chen plans to bring it to other emerging markets as well. Another step towards the survival of the company would be to regain the huge number of BlackBerry fans who switched to other platforms when the Canadian company came on the market with the BlackBerry Z10.

Many consider launching the BlackBerry Z10 before the Q10 was a major marketing mistake given the fact that the vast majority of fans preferred the traditional QWERTY-like design instead of the full-touch layout of the former. John Chen seems to have acknowledged that, and the result is the upcoming BlackBerry Q20, which will be the company’s new flagship smartphone. The handset will not only reiterate BlackBerry’s attachment to the traditional QWERTY keyboard, but it will also bring the trackpad back, along with the physical Menu, Back, Send and End buttons. The good news is things will not stop here, as Chen mysteriously stated BlackBerry would launch more high-end smartphones by the end of the year, though he did not offer any additional details. In the services area, BlackBerry made consistent improvements with the launch of its popular BBM instant messenger on Android and iOS platforms. The Canadian company has a strong partnership with Nokia and has already confirmed it will launch BBM on Windows Phone operating system.

BlackBerry may have also found ways to monetize on BBM’s use without disrupting the service’s standard features. In this regard, the company announced that it would never introduce ads into BBM chats. Instead, BlackBerry opted for sponsored posts in the Updates area of the application and a few ad-related invitations that a BBM user will receive monthly from various BBM Channel owners. This will be strictly controlled by BlackBerry, and in the end it might prove to bring some money to the ever-lossmaking Canadian company. There’s also the problem of BlackBerry’s enterprise business, which is now being reinforced by Chen with his new management. BlackBerry lost almost all its major enterprise customers in the last couple of years, but Chen is positive and says that, even though winning them back or bringing new ones in may prove difficult, at least they tend to stay with you for a much longer time.

Enterprise customers are usually more loyal than end users, but only as long as they are provided good products and services. Here is hoping BlackBerry will soon become a major player in the smartphone market once again.

BlackBerry logo
Image credits to BlackBerry

Newly Uncovered Samsung SM-T805 Could Be the AMOLED Tablet We Have Been Waiting For

Samsung's R&D teams never seem to be getting any rest. Even if Samsung barely launched its latest set of tablets, the Galaxy NotePRO and Galaxy TabPRO series, the tech giant has apparently already started work on its next high-end tablet line-up.

The guys over at SamMobile came across a UAProf listing of an unseen before device code-named SM-T805, which they speculate is a new premium offering. How can we tell it is high-end just by looking at the number? Well, compare it to the one of the Galaxy TabPRO 12.2 SM-T900 and you’ll certainly notice the resemblance. It also helps the screen resolution has been listed as 2560 x 1600 (the same we have in the Galaxy TabPRO and Galaxy NotePRO line-up). The tablet is shown to be running Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version in the bunch. There’s a big possibility this is actually the tablet with curved margins we have seen appear in a patent just yesterday. For those who aren't up to date with the developments, we’re talking about a tablet featuring left and right curved sides that could allow users to grip it more comfortably.

There’s also another important piece missing in the Samsung tablet puzzle. We have repeatedly asked ourselves, where are the promised Samsung AMOLED tablets hiding? Back in December, it was revealed that Samsung kick-started the mass production of AMOLED tablet screens in 8-inch and 10-inch flavors, prompting us to hope we’re going to see some AMOLED tablets into the wild in the first quarter of the year. Samsung is expected to continue using LCD screen in its low-range and middle-range tablets, while upgrading to AMOLED in premium devices. Hopefully, the SM-T805 might be the first high-end device to abide to the standard.

We have been playing hide-and-seek with Sammy’s AMOLED tablets for some time now. The tablets were expected to make a debut at CES 2014, then at MWC 2014, but nothing relevant came out. Could it be possible that all rumors and reports concerning Samsung’s AMOLED tablets are fake? It’s highly unlikely the Korean tech giant isn't tackling the idea one way or another. Anyway, sources familiar with the matter have already confirmed the device-related software for the SM-T805 is a work in progress at Samsung, meaning the manufacturer has already finalized things in terms of hardware. On top of the SM-T805, SM-T800 and SM-T801 have been spotted as well, clearly indicating the tablet will come in different variants, meaning with Wi-Fi, 3G and LTE options.

SM-T805 rekindles hope of new AMOLED tablet
Image credits to GalaxyClub

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