MWC 2014: BlackBerry "ready to compete" as CEO announces Q20, Z3, BES 12 and revised licensing

By Peter Gothard
25 Feb 2014 View Comments

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has announced that the company is "ready to compete and make up some lost ground", announcing two new devices and a host of new features and deals around the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Messenger platforms.

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A new flagship smartphone, a new budget one, revised licensing and pricing for BES and new monetisation strategies for BBM were the crux of Chen's presentation, which he said was a result of listening to customer feedback, and realising BlackBerry had "spread [itself] too thin" with attempts to focus too much on the consumer market with BlackBerry 10.

Whipping out the new, budget-aimed BlackBerry Z3 - codename Jakarta - Chen said that in "less than three months, we have the phone up and running" after signing a deal with Foxconn in December 2013.

"In April it will come out in Indonesia, for less than $200," he said. "It's a 3G phone, but we have a plan to go global with an LTE version."

The firm's new show-stopper is the Q20 keyboard phone. Chen joked that he'd wanted to call the device the "BlackBerry Classic", but that "none of [his] people liked it".

The phone revives such popular features as Menu, Back, Send and End buttons, as well as featuring an integral trackpad that BlackBerry hopes will speed up use of the phone, as well as introduce a higher degree of precision. The release date for the Q20 is, said Chen, "before the end of the calendar year".

Foxconn's Terry Gou added that he now considers BlackBerry a "unique asset" in his company's customer base, and that Foxconn is "fully committed to supporting BlackBerry" in a "partnership [that] is a major force" in the industry.

John Sims, who joined BlackBerry from SAP at the end of 2013, was up next. As president of global enterprise services, Sims made a wealth of announcements around the BlackBerry Enterprise Server platform, namely that it was being updated straight to BES 12 - a new build of the platform that is designed to bridge users from 5, 7 and 10, with legacy BlackBerry OS compatibility.

Calling the scheme "EasyPass", BlackBerry promises a free platform upgrade for users as far back as BES 5, instantly batting back criticisms from companies such as Good Technology, who have been trying to capitalise on BlackBerry's inflexibility when dealing with existing customers.

All expansion is based on BES - "the unifying foundation", said Sims, promising "seamlessly integrated" performance with "very competitive cross-platform support," including Windows 8. All this before the end of the year.

"We are extending from there and moving to support cross-platform devices, and extending further to provide application enablement and development," while extending security to application developers inside the enterprise, and wider ecosystem.

["Beyond email and PAM"? Turn to next page]

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