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Blackberry's Pivot To Services And The Leaked Passport

A big square screen, looks strange and doesn't support many
smartphone use cases well.
In terms of tanking sales and business model collapses we've seen some spectacular failures in the mobile world. Palm, obviously, and Nokia, went from giants to dead ducks in an unbelievably short time. Blackberry is heading in the same direction, although new CEO John Chen is working to pivot the company away from mobile devices and position it as a solutions and services company.

That seems to be working, the release of Blackberry Messenger across multiple platforms puts it in a position to compete in the 'hot' messaging category, although whether its old-school, business face will draw users in from other younger, more youth focused services remains to be seen. The company also has plans to get involved in the delivery of the Internet of Things, another 'hot marketspace that hasn't yet seen the emergence of a premium brand leader. Here Blackberry's historical reputation for delivering secure remote solutions may play to its advantage. Mobile device management is another area where Blackberry's reputation should keep it competitive.

So what part, then, does the much leaked Passport handset have to play in this future?

It's a strange looking thing, with a square 4.5" 1440 x 1440 display that makes the handset half as wide again as a standard phone. This does make room for a physical keyboard at the bottom, without making for an overly tall device and the keyboard's wide keys look very usable - although the absence of numbers, punctuation characters or even a shift key suggest that in the real world jumping between physical and virtual keyboards will be a painful necessity.

Blackberry effectively sold its hardware soul to Foxconn, so I don't imagine its taking much of a financial risk here, however if the Passport turns out to be a dud of a device - and frankly I'm struggling to see a market for it - the bad press will further blacken Blackberry's name and make it's pivot harder to achieve.

Unless John Chen sees a miraculous recovery of smartphone market share introducing devices like the Passport just doesn't support Blackberry's new business model. A sensible path would be to evolve the current Z and Q slowly, keeping the erosion of its customer base to a manageable level whilst it completes its pivot.

The wild and whacky Passport just opens the door for more damage to the businesses reputation, more bad reviews and more poor press. Something that I am sure that John Chen will be very keen to avoid.


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