BlackBerry Passes Two Milestones

Carl Weinschenk
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BlackBerry passed two fairly significant, and in one case, a bit nostalgic, milestones this week.

The event that may make true technophiles a bit sad and even a teary eyed is that BlackBerry is abandoning its signature physical keyboard. The New York Times reports that it is discontinuing the BlackBerry Classic, which it introduced in 2014. That device, taking a page from Coke Classic, was aimed at attracting fans of its iconic namesake.

Times change, of course. The BlackBerry Classic was no doubt done away with as the company makes the expensive transition from a hardware to a software focus. The announcement comes as BlackBerry comes off a difficult quarter:

Late last month, BlackBerry announced a quarterly loss of $670 million. That was about three times the company’s loss in the previous quarter and largely reflected write-downs in the value of its phone business.

While BlackBerry has said that it is making the hardware to software move and is jettisoning the physical keyboard, it is introducing phones. BlackBerry will introduce three Android phones, codenamed after the elements Neon, Argon and Mercury, beginning this year. Each will be less expensive than the Priv, which “has achieved mediocre sales to date,” according to Business Insider.

The fate of the three phones will determine whether BlackBerry has a future, albeit a small one, in physical phones or whether it needs to be software-only. An interesting graphic at Business Insider maps the radical change in direction during the past four years.

The other milestone is that the United States government appears to be moving away from BlackBerry and to Apple and Samsung. Members of the Senate have been told that the current stock of BlackBerry devices will be the last available. BlackBerry disputes some of what was reported in the memo on the topic, according to InformationWeek. It is unclear whether BlackBerry’s strengths – management, control and security – will still be used by the government.

It has been a long, strange trip for BlackBerry which, led by CEO John Chen, is making hard decisions to increase the odds that it continues.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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