BlackBerry had billed “a very strong device roadmap” in the buildup to its Mobile World Congress presence this year. What the company showed at its press conference this morning was a full touch screen smartphone, called Leap.
BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen also promised a curved-screen handset with a separate keyboard to come out “as soon as it’s done.” In addition, the company stressed the integration of its software into Samsung’s KNOX workspace.
The Leap smartphone comes with a five-inch 1280 x 720 touch screen and no keyboard and will cost $275. But the latest BlackBerry handset “will find it tough to compete with the iPhone and Android devices,” according to analyst house CCS Insight. However, the research company added that “the Leap will be essential to a more-rounded portfolio.”
In the meantime BlackBerry made it clear it remains heavily focused on developing cross-platform software services that Chen said will extend to “any end point” – i.e any IP address – “whether it is a vending machine or a rice cooker”. In addition to developing a software platform to address the internet of things market, BlackBerry is aiming its enterprise mobility software at the vertical sectors of healthcare, finance and government.
“We’re expanding into the software and services business and doing it quickly,” said Ketan Kamdar, global head of device portfolio, BlackBerry.
Hardware still accounts for the majority of BlackBerry’s revenues, according to Chen, who admits “it will take some time for hardware and software to be twin towers”.
In its effort to build up software revenues quickly BlackBerry is working with any operating system, whether it is Windows, Android or iOS. In particular, BlackBerry underscored its collaboration with Samsung to “create a highly integrated experience” for BlackBerry’s enterprise software on Samsung KNOX. The strategy of putting BlackBerry’s enterprise software and encrypted messaging functions onto Samsung phones could call into question the future of BlackBerry handsets. However, for now BlackBerry claims to be committed to continuing to develop handsets aimed at the enterprise market.
BlackBerry’s enterprise software services include secure access, and a split billing function that lets companies pay only for work-related voice, data and SMS usage. The company, which cites operators as its key channel, also showed collaboration tools, such as one-touch conference call dial that does away with the need to enter passwords.