BlackBerry woos keyboard loyalists with Classic device launch
By John McCrank
NEW YORK Dec 17 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd launched its long-awaited Classic device on Wednesday, a smartphone it hopes will help it win back market share and woo those still using older versions of its physical keyboard devices.
The Waterloo, Ontario-based mobile technology said the new device, which bears a striking similarity to its once-bestselling Bold and Curve handsets, boasts a larger screen, longer battery life, expanded app library with access to he offerings from Amazon.com Inc's Android App store, and a browser three times faster than the one on its legacy devices.
"BlackBerry Classic is the powerful communications tool that many BlackBerry Bold and Curve users have been waiting for," Chief Executive Officer John Chen said in a statement, noting the device brings back the command bar functionalities that helped make its legacy devices easy to navigate.
When the company initially introduced its new BlackBerry 10 operating system and devices early in 2012 it put more emphasis on touchscreens, alienating many fans of its physical keyboard.
Moreover, those who moved to its new physical keyboard devices it later launched were unhappy that command keys like the 'Menu,' 'Back,' 'Send' and 'End' buttons, along with the trackpad had been dropped.
Chen is in some ways taking the company back to its roots, re-emphasizing the physical keyboard with the recent launch of the Passport and the Classic models, rather than trying to compete directly against the touchscreen handsets of dominant rivals like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc .
Chen, who became CEO a year ago, is also pivoting BlackBerry to earn more revenue from software, as system access fees from those using its legacy devices wind down.
Analysts have noted a successful launch of the Classic would accelerate service revenue erosion because the new devices do not generate system access fees. But a jump in hardware revenue from Classic and Passport sales would give BlackBerry time to scale up its software business in 2015.
"We believe that the company's current strategy of staying true to its core user base of business users - in industries such as healthcare, banking and insurance - rather than chasing the mainstream could help to transform the handset division into a stable business," said research firm Trefis in a recent note to clients. (Writing by Euan Rocha; Editing by Jeffreys Hodgson and Benkoe)
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