BlackBerry is making huge Leaps forward says Chen


Three devices to be released this year as manufacturer reveals its plans of a return to profitability are ahead of schedule

BlackBerry says it will release four new handsets this year as CEO John Chen (pictured) insisted its road to financial recovery is now ahead of schedule.

The Canadian firm, which has a global market share of under one per cent (IDC), broke with tradition by launching its latest device, the BlackBerry Leap (below, right) at Mobile World Congress – whilst providing limited details of three others.

The new low-to-mid end device, which BlackBerry described as targeted towards a “young career builder”, features a five-inch touchscreen (no keyboard), 8MP camera, 16GB of storage, 2GB RAM and a 2800mAH battery life. It costs $275.

“We’re going after the young career builder, someone who is looking make a difference,” said president of devices and emerging solutions, Ron Louks. “It is also a great device for businesses looking to upgrade their mobile fleets, and have BB assistant, Blend, BB Hub, security and malware protection, backup wipe and restore.”

Availability of handset
EE has already confirmed it will stock the handset for its B2B customers but O2 and Three have turned it down. Vodafone UK, despite being described by Chen as a “big supporter” globally of BlackBerry, has also confirmed it will carry stock.

In addition, it has revealed limited details on a further three handsets due to be launched before the end of this year.

These include, what BlackBerry has referred to as, the “Slider” touchscreen device, which slides to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard.

Louks teasingly revealed a prototype model for a brief moment at the event but refused to say much about further devices.

The other devices mentioned were another unnamed traditional keyboard and screen designed device as well as a new luxury handset in partnership with car manufacturer Porsche (left in silver), called Keian.

Financial health check
Whilst the handset announcements grabbed the headlines, the bulk of the conference was devoted to BlackBerry’s financial performance and improving balance sheet.

Chen, who stopped short of crediting himself with the turnaround, pointed to the modest $6 million profit (excluding one-off items) that BlackBerry made in the three months ending November 30 as progress.  This is still however, in contrast, way below past glories of just four years ago, where profits topped almost $3.4 billion.

The manufacturer is due to release its next set of results for the FY2015 (year-ending Feb 28)  on March 27.

Chen said he could not be more specific on revenue projections but his comments on stage, heavily suggest continued improvements are likely to be seen.

“(On the) company financial well-being side, the gameplan continues. We’re going to be making more money and generating more cash. We have revenue that is depleting because of our old service activation fee (paid by a declining number of BlackBerry 7 users), but we are going to be able to stabilise our revenue and position ourselves for growth. I’m very hopeful and the team is very focused on delivering that.”