Wait, wait, back up: BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is actually interested in tablets after all.
At the BlackBerry Live 2013 conference in Orlando, Fla., Heins did his best to roll back earlier comments that the tablet is headed for history’s dustbin of dead technology. In an interview with CNET, he suggested that larger-screen devices indeed have a future, and that BlackBerry is interested in playing a part in that. “We want to create something that’s easier to use,” he said, hinting that any BlackBerry efforts in that direction would center on software, not hardware.
BlackBerry is using the show to highlight the new BlackBerry Q5 smartphone running BlackBerry 10. As with the famed BlackBerry devices of yore, it features a physical QWERTY keyboard alongside a 3.1-inch touch-screen. BlackBerry will roll the phone out to “select markets,” including the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. At a presumably-competitive-but-unmentioned price, the device is clearly BlackBerry’s answer to the cheaper Google Android and Symbian devices used by much of the world—but that lower market-tier is brimming with competition, not only from rival manufacturers but also aging BlackBerry devices owned by people with no intention of upgrading.
For the higher-end market, BlackBerry continues to push its Z10 and Q10 “hero” devices. The former device features a large touch-screen and runs BlackBerry 10; the latter comes with that physical QWERTY keyboard that a subset of hardcore BlackBerry users apparently love so much.
In a bid to increase the market for its software, BlackBerry is opening up its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) platform to Apple iOS and Google Android users (provided that Apple and Google actually let the software into their respective app stores). That’s an interesting move, because BlackBerry has traditionally used BBM as a selling point for its hardware: buy one of our devices, and you can talk to your BlackBerry-wielding friends all you want. It’s harder to argue for BBM’s utility as a standalone app, especially with so many other messaging options out there—but BlackBerry evidently believes that an agnostic BBM will prove good for the brand.