OTTAWA: BlackBerry Ltd.’s new Android phone hitting the market this week could be the company’s last attempt at making its devices profitable before ending production.
The Canadian company has unveiled several new phones in the two years since Chief Executive Officer John Chen took over, but none has managed to stop hardware sales from falling.
Chen has repeatedly said he will exit the device business if he can’t make it profitable.
The BlackBerry “Priv” named for its emphasis on privacy runs a full version of Google’s Android operating system but features some of BlackBerry’s highly respected security and productivity features.
It comes preloaded with an application that tracks how much other applications on your phone are accessing your personal data and location.
It also has BlackBerry’s signature physical keyboard, which slides down from under the touch screen.
“Perhaps there’s something else in the pipeline, but this device does seem like a last stand,” Brian Colello, a Chicago- based analyst at Morningstar Investment Services, said in an interview.
“We’ve seen new products come out for the last couple years, BlackBerry’s trying to get a hit with any form factor, any price point and now it’s with a different operating system.”
With its share of the global smartphone market at less than 1 percent, BlackBerry has been working to shift its focus to higher-margin software sales.
As he tries to turn around the company’s fortunes, Chen has held onto the phone business, which still accounts for about 40 percent of revenue.
Blackberry could stop producing phones within the next year if it doesn’t begin turning a profit, he said at a conference in October.