21/04/2014 - How would you change Blackberry's Z10?
With the advent of touchscreen smartphones, BlackBerry lost its position as king of the mobile world. In response, the company bought QNX and hibernated, plotting a reinvention centered around BlackBerry 10. When the business emerged with the Z10, everyone knew that this was the device that the company's future relied upon -- and we know how that ended up. When we reviewed it, we found that every element of the hardware was solid, adequate and pleasing. Unfortunately for BlackBerry, nothing stood out as being better compared to the devices that launched in its stead, nullifying any attention the handset's big launch had garnered. It's been just over a year since the Z10 launched, so we thought we'd ask all of you what it's been like living with this device. Hop over to the forums and let's chat some BlackBerry.
Source: Engadget Product Forums
BlackBerry's future as a phonemaker came into question yesterday when Reuters reported that CEO John Chen would consider selling its handset division. Naturally, the company sought to set the record straight... with a blog post from Chen himself published earlier today.
"I want to assure you that I have no intention of selling off or abandoning this business any time soon," he wrote, noting that his comments were taken out of context. So what exactly did he mean? Chen quietly crashed a reporter's roundtable with BlackBerry enterprise chief John Sims this morning (apparently in search of a cup of coffee) -- here's what he told us about the Reuters interview and the future of BlackBerry's phones.
Filed under: Mobile
Source: Inside BlackBerry
T-Mobile head honcho John Legere's assuring its BlackBerry-toting subscribers they've got nothing to worry about despite the companies' falling out. But, just in case they are worried (or just want to try other platforms), he's also offering them a $100 credit toward any device. Legere made the announcement in an open letter posted on T-Mo's blog, where he also reminded folks they can stay with the carrier and still use BlackBerrys if they bring their own unlocked devices.
02/04/2014 - T-Mobile will no longer carry BlackBerry devices
By the looks of it, BlackBerry chief John Chen wasn't appeased by T-Mobile's attempt to make peace -- in fact, things have only escalated: T-Mobile will no longer carry any BlackBerry device. In a press release today, the company formerly known as RIM announced that it has chosen not to renew T-Mobile's license to sell its products when it expires on April 25th, 2014. If you're wondering what exactly happened between the two companies, it all started when T-Mobile encouraged BlackBerry-toting customers to switch to the iPhone. Obviously, that didn't sit well with Chen, so the magenta network launched a promo for existing BB owners, giving them $200 to $250 if they're upgrading to another BlackBerry device. Those who decided to do so need not worry, though: the two promise not to let this nasty divorce get in the way of supporting their current customers.
Looks like Microsoft isn't the only latecomer scrambling to add a voice-guided assistant to its mobile platform. A leaked test-build of the new BlackBerry firmware (version 10.3.0.140, if you're curious) is rocking an app called "Intelligent Assistant," but as both N4BB and a ZonaBlackBerry forum poster have noticed, it doesn't quite work yet. The application sports a somewhat familiar circular icon for the primary UI, but, at the moment, it's hard to tell how deep the implementation runs and what its capabilities are. Should this feature actually make it into a future update, it could be the struggling Canadian company's answer to Android's Google Now and iOS' Siri. Let's just hope the beleaguered outfit can come up with a catchier name if and when that happens. Check out the sources and video below for a look at the rest of what the flatter BB 10.3 might offer.
BlackBerry has been signalling for weeks that it would sell most of its Canadian offices in order to save some badly needed cash, and today it reached a deal to do just that. The pact will see the company sell over 3 million square feet of property in its homeland, leasing some of it back; the Waterloo headquarters should remain intact. Everything should wrap up before the end of BlackBerry's current quarter, which ends in May. The agreement should help BlackBerry focus on its core business (whatever that may be), although the move may not be enough when major customers like the White House are thinking of jumping ship.
It's been a rough few years for BlackBerry, but America's highest office remains a dedicated customer -- for at least a few more months. According to a Defense Department spokesman quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the White House is currently testing smartphone replacements from other manufacturers. Android appears to be the OS of choice, with the agency's internal tech team evaluating handsets from LG and Samsung. As for BlackBerry, while the relatively small White House is hardly a significant customer from a financial perspective, the symbolic move would clearly be a significant blow. Though according to the aforementioned spokesperson, any move away from BB is still "months away."
(Photo credit: Associated Press)
A few lucky Verizon BlackBerry buffs got the long-awaited 10.2.1 update back in January, and now Big Red is starting to push that new build to all its Z10, Q10 and Z30 owners. The new version number doesn't sound all that impressive, but the changelog is heftier than the label lets on: there's loads of UI tweaks to dig into, to say nothing of an offline reading mode, better support for group messaging and FM radio functionality... if you've got a Q10 or Z30. BlackBerry also made it easier to install Android APKs, if you're into that sort of cross-platform witchcraft. Verizon is the second major US carrier to make this update available (T-Mobile took the gold this time), but there's still no word on when AT&T and Sprint will get their respective acts together.
Filed under: Mobile
11/03/2014 - BlackBerry's identity crisis continues
To say that BlackBerry's had it tough these past few years would be putting it mildly, if not too delicately for a company emerging from a period of willful ignorance. The Waterloo-based outfit, formerly known as Research in Motion, played an embarrassing game of catch-up in the mobile space it once dominated. An uphill rehabilitation that saw it acquire QNX to build a new operating system, release a half-baked tablet, rebrand as BlackBerry in search of a new identity and, tellingly, hire Alicia Keys as a creative figurehead.
And none of it mattered -- not even the forced infusion of Ms. Keys' questionable zeitgeist-y influence. The BlackBerry of today has so far failed to resurrect sufficient interest in its fledgling mobile platform and devices, leading to the ouster of former CEO Thorsten Heins, the very recent installation of John Chen and a redoubled focus on the enterprise set that once was core to the company's business. So why does the company still seem to be engaged in an internal tug-of-war over its identity? I had a chance to speak with Gary Klassen, longtime BlackBerry employee and principal architect, here at SXSW in the hopes he could shed some light on what the Blackberry of today stands for and where it's going.
If you worship at the BlackBerry altar and are in dire need of a cloud storage service that isn't Dropbox, Box or Mega, today's your lucky day. Now you can dump your files in Microsoft's OneDrive by way of a newly released BlackBerry 10 app. Like the Android and iOS versions before it, this OneDrive app lets you automatically upload your photos and videos as well as share your files with far-flung cohorts. Just be mindful of your limits: OneDrive (which went by "SkyDrive" before Microsoft got hit with a lawsuit) offers up 7GB of free storage to new users. That's still better than the 2GB that Dropbox gives away gratis, but Box and Mega offer 10GB and 50GB of free space, respectively. Choose wisely... or sign up for all of them and surrender yourself to the cloud.
Filed under: Mobile
Source: BlackBerry World
Wearable devices seem to be a hot trend in the wireless industry right now, but BlackBerry isn't taking the bait... at least, not yet. When asked about his company's plans at Mobile World Congress, CEO John Chen was very straight-forward in confessing that he has no current plans for bringing a wearable device to market. That doesn't mean it won't happen down the road at some point, of course, but it's clear that this particular market segment isn't really an area of interest or focus right now -- considering the company is working hard to bring out fresh devices and is in the midst of getting back to becoming profitable, and it appears that BlackBerry doesn't believe that such a device would really make a dent in its bottom line yet.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen is here at MWC and has some device news. The executive announced progress on the phone codenamed Jakarta (shown off above), which will be coming out to Indonesia in April. The company plans to sell the device, which is a collaboration between BlackBerry and Foxconn, for under $200. Chen also tells us that there will be an LTE version coming out to other parts of the world at some time in the future; joking, Chen mentioned that it would come out "sometime before I die."
Additionally, Chen also officially confirmed that a device known as the Q20 is in the works, and will be coming out sometime before the end of the year.
If you hadn't heard, BlackBerry chief John Chen isn't happy with T-Mobile -- he believes the carrier fired a shot across the bow when it enticed BlackBerry users to switch phones in a recent promotion. To mend that bruised relationship, the magenta network is launching a limited-time trade-in offer that gives loyal users a strong incentive to upgrade. As of February 21st, T-Mobile will give you $200 for your existing BlackBerry, and $250 if you're upgrading from a T-Mobile BlackBerry to a BB10 device like the Q10 or Z10. The payout is the same regardless of the device's age, so long as it's in good condition; if you're still rocking a Curve 3G, you'll get the full amount. Market share trends suggest that there won't be too many people upgrading to new BlackBerrys, but the olive branch is welcome all the same.
If you thought Typo's iPhone keyboard looked an awful lot like the keyboard from a BlackBerry Q10, you're not alone. BlackBerry has just sued Typo in a Northern California court for alleged patent infringement. The slide-on peripheral is a "blatant" copy of BlackBerry's signature input feature, according to the company. We've reached out to Typo for commentary, but it may not have many options -- the crew in Waterloo has patented a lot of keyboards, and it's hard to deny the strong resemblance.
30/12/2013 - Tech's biggest misfires of 2013
You can't win 'em all. The adage certainly holds in the fast-paced world of technology, where one small slip can put a damper on your entire year. Every year, among all of the celebrations of top gadgets and big news stories, we like to take a moment to acknowledge the other side of things. This time out, it's a pretty diverse list, from flubbed Kickstarter launches to massive governmental privacy breaches and yet another really lousy year for one smartphone manufacturer. But don't worry everyone; the year 2013 is nearly over.
24/12/2013 - BlackBerry's latest casualty: Two unreleased phones
2013 continues to be a downer year for the company formerly known as Research In Motion. The Wall Street Journal has just uncovered a tidbit in BlackBerry's latest earnings report that states two unreleased phones had to be cancelled due to poor sales of its existing handsets. Apparently code-named Cafe and Kopi, they were slated to be sold as budget phones for emerging markets but had to be nixed to "mitigate the identified inventory risk." This comes on the heels of BlackBerry's announcement that it's partnering up with FoxConn for device manufacturing and canceling its annual conference in order to save costs. It all seems rather dire, but the Wall Street Journal also reports that the company is still working on a couple of higher-end handsets internally code-named Ontario and Windermere. Whether or not those phones will see the light of day, however, remains to be seen.
Source: Wall Street Journal
This morning's earnings report may not have been BlackBerry's favorite moment, but John Chen seems confident in his vision for the company's future -- and his ability to turn things around. Speaking with a small group of analysts and reporters, Chen mentioned that this coming year will be critical for BlackBerry, saying that it will be an investment year. We can't say we disagree; certainly the deal with Foxconn (which Chen specifies does not involve any licensing agreements, ensuring government relations remain under BlackBerry's control) will require a lot of additional effort and resources on his company's part. Chen seems adamant that this "investment" will not include layoffs, however, "if [he] can avoid it." Certainly no guarantee, of course, but Chen is confident that this quarter was just a hiccup that will help BlackBerry find future financial success, and that he expects his company to be cash flow-neutral by 2015 and profitable by 2016, and wants to do it using growth, rather than saving money through cuts. In fact, Chen plans to build up an Enterprise sales force "to take it back to the market."
Chen also spoke to his new position as chief executive, saying that the "interim" title has been removed, and he's now the man in charge for the foreseeable future. But for how long, exactly? As long as it takes to get the company on strong financial footing. "My step one was to have the company financially out of harm's way. I can't say I've done it today, but we are on a good path." He definitely wins the prize for the most confident CEO of the year.
Additionally, Chen mentioned that BlackBerry will be building a security technology center in Washington, DC to work with big government clients like the Department of Defense. This new center, which will be several thousand square feet, will primarily employ engineers (although he doesn't specify if these engineers will be transferred there or if BlackBerry will enjoy a hiring spree). This makes sense, given Chen's insistence that one of the company's biggest areas of focus must be on security for regulated industries, in which government relations will play a huge role.
The high-level shakeups aren't over at BlackBerry just because the company has a new CEO. The company has just let go of Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear (pictured at left) and Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben (right), both of whom had assumed their roles roughly one year ago. There's no mention of immediate replacements. The Waterloo firm is also replacing Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka with the company's Compliance head James Yersh; Bidulka will stay on as an advisor for the rest of the fiscal year to ease the transition. CEO John Chen hasn't provided explanations for the individual departures, but he describes the executive shuffle as necessary for focusing on BlackBerry's "core strength" in mobile device management. Let's just hope that Chen is better at engineering a turnaround than his predecessors.
If your company produced a device that, while technically accomplished, managed to lose you $1 billion a few months later, you'd probably try and pretend that it never existed. That's not the approach that BlackBerry is taking with the Z10, however. Instead, the beleaguered smartphone maker has teamed up with Porsche Design to create the P'9982, a gussied-up version of the touchscreen smartphone designed to tempt gold course-bound executives and the super rich in ways that the original evidently failed to do. We've just got one of the devices in our hand, and we thought we'd run the rule over it to see how the other half live.
It has been possible to snag an unlocked BlackBerry Q10 or Z10 in the US for a while if you've been willing to search around, but you now won't have to. BlackBerry has quietly begun selling unrestricted GSM variants of the two smartphones through its US site at prices of $449 for a Z10 and $549 for a Q10. Either device remains LTE-capable, and both should play nicely with AT&T and T-Mobile. The direct sales aren't likely to attract many converts, but they should help American fans who may have a tough time finding a BlackBerry in stores.
BlackBerry has just reported a $935 million hit in Q2 due entirely to what it's calling a "Z10 Inventory Charge" -- in other words, a charge against inventory and supply commitments for a flagship handset that is failing to sell. Echoing Microsoft's catastrophic write-down due to unsold Surface RT inventory, this single write-down was enough to wipe out much of the company's quarterly revenue of $1.6 billion. When added to an additional loss due to corporate restructuring, it resulted in a final GAAP loss for BlackBerry of $965 million.
26/09/2013 - BlackBerry manufacturing partner Jabil Circuit says it's looking at how it will 'wind down the relationship'
The news for BlackBerry is just going from bad to worse these days. The latest development comes from its manufacturing partner Jabil Circuit, which has apparently had enough of the company's troubles and is looking for a way out. Speaking on the company's quarterly earnings call yesterday, Jabil CEO Mark Mondello said that "we are faced with a strong possibility of disengaging with BlackBerry," adding, "our team has worked diligently over the past few days to comprehend the recently announced changes," and that "we're in discussions right now on how we're going to wind down the relationship."
As All Things D notes, BlackBerry is Jabil's second-biggest customer (behind Apple), so this is no doubt not a decision it's taking lightly, but it looks like it's one it intends to move quickly on. Mondello went on to say that while the company is looking for a path that's in the best interest of its shareholders and also "supports the needs of BlackBerry," it plans to "take a restructuring charge, move swiftly and decisively and mitigate the impact to FY '14 as best we can."
Source: All Things D
26/09/2013 - Motorola plans hiring spree in BlackBerry's hometown
Unless BlackBerry bosses embark on some wild scorched earth policy as they retreat from the smartphone business, their hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, should prove to be fertile ground for other mobile companies looking to expand. Motorola could become one of the first to capitalize on the situation, having just opened a small office in Kitchener-Waterloo, where its parent company Google has already had an R&D base since 2006. Speaking to the Financial Post, Motorola Canada's engineering director, Derek Phillips, said he has "big plans" for the area and is "optimistic" about finding the right mobile tech talent. He stopped short of saying he wants BB workers specifically, instead pointing to other sources of brainpower like the University of Waterloo (which happens to be the home of the Lazaridis-backed Quantum-Nano Centre). For the sake of the 4,500 people recently left unemployed due to BlackBerry's strategic failures, however, we hope he was just being diplomatic.
Source: Financial Post
23/09/2013 - BlackBerry enters agreement for $4.7 billion sale of company to consortium led by Fairfax Financial
For the second time in as many trading days, shares of BlackBerry were halted in advance of some big news from the company. Today's news is no less big. BlackBerry has just announced that it's signed a letter of intent agreement for a sale of the company for $4.7 billion to a consortium led by Fairfax Financial (the company's largest shareholder).