Whether you love BlackBerry or hate it, the Canadian smartphone maker is banking on its new Passport device to help reshape perception of the company in a highly competitive market.
“We are determined to win back the Canadian home crowd,” chief executive John Chen told the audience at the Toronto launch event on Wednesday.
“If you guys don’t support us, then you’ve got some problems,” he joked.
Rather, it might be BlackBerry that faces more problems if the Passport doesn’t catch on with the business users it wants to attract.
Nearly a year ago, Chen was brought on board at the struggling company to help dig it out of a financial pit and reshape its business model. So far, he has completed a major restructuring of its operations through cost cuts, layoffs and a shift in the company’s overall strategy.
Taking the Passport to users is the next step.
The device is comparable in size to a Canadian passport, a point which Chen demonstrated by placing the phone against the government-issued identification booklet. It has a square screen that measures 11.4 cm (4.5 inches) and a keyboard the company said is four times more accurate for the user than the phone’s competitors.
Priced at $699 in Canada, the Passport is angled towards health care professionals, government workers and the military, which tend to be industries that embrace technology through massive product orders and stick with a device for years.
Together the target market represents about 30 per cent of mobile phone users, Chen said.
“I no longer bring any laptops around when I go to business meetings,” he added.
“This is powerful enough as a tool.”
Aside from the new phone, the company also showcased its new BlackBerry Blend application, which securely links a user’s smartphone, and data like email, BBM and other documents, seamlessly with their nearby computer or tablet through the Internet.
Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy models have been encroaching on the business market where BlackBerry was once considered nearly untouchable with its dominant market share.
The company responded by opening up its secure enterprise platform to support Apple and Samsung smartphones in the workplace.
It has also launched features in Indonesia like BBM Money, which allows users to pay through a BlackBerry Messenger app at participating retailers.
Later this year, the company will also release BlackBerry Classic, a new take on its popular older smartphones.
Also on the schedule are numerous software updates, including BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12, a refreshed version of its management system for IT professionals who oversee employee phones.
BlackBerry will report its second-quarter financial results on Friday. While Chen declined to discuss specifics, he assured the audience that progress has been made on improving the company’s balance sheet and managing cash flow.
With files from CityNews.ca/The Canadian Press