BlackBerry is apparently set to offer a smartphone powered by Android, in a move that seems to acknowledge it has failed to gain traction with devices powered by its own BlackBerry 10 platform.
While refusing to be drawn on the speculation, the company told Reuters that it “remains committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system”, touting its security and productivity benefits.
While BlackBerry has invested heavily in BlackBerry 10, it has already embraced Android to a certain degree, by offering application compatibility in order to give users access to a strong catalogue of entertainment titles (in partnership with Amazon).
Development for native BlackBerry 10 applications has switched to products targeting its core enterprise customer base.
But as BlackBerry 10 devices have struggled to find buyers, contrastingly Android device vendors are looking to target products at the enterprise customer base.
A shift to embrace Android fully would enable it to reallocate resources away from BlackBerry 10 development to explore other opportunities in markets such as IoT. But it is not clear if its Android engagement would be a one-off (it has been linked with an anticipated slider device) or a fully-fledged shift.
While BlackBerry’s device line still draws a lot of attention, largely due to its pioneering role in popularising smartphones and producing iconic devices, the company has for some time been shifting its focus to mobile device management, which supports smartphones powered by a range of platforms – including Android.
The move to support Android in its own hardware has been seen as a way of signalling that it has full confidence in its device management technology used alongside Android to the extent it would adopt the alternative platform in its own portfolio.
In a Reuters report, analyst Rob Enderle observed: “If Android has one significant weakness it is security, and that’s just the thing that BlackBerry can fix”.
And while BlackBerry has said it is committed to the device business – despite reports it may exit this sector – the sub-scale size of the unit means it doesn’t have much to lose in taking a punt on Android.
Indeed, an Android device with the full range of content and apps available on this platform, but with BlackBerry QWERTY form factor and enterprise device management, may prove to be something of a break-out hit, appealing to “prosumer” users in much the same way that the BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry Pearl line did previously.