Is This the Beginning of the End for Blackberry?

Although the past has been rocky for Blackberry, the future may look to be fruitful. This Wednesday, John Chen, the new CEO of Blackberry, launched the latest Blackberry smartphone: the Passport. The company tried to innovate from previous smartphone models by featuring a 4.5 inch square display, a physical QWERTY keyboard that doubles as a touch-sensitive track pad, a 30 hour battery life, and 4 gigabytes of RAM. Chen plans to focus sales towards professionals who require secure access to documents and editing controls.

Pricing for the Passport, off-contract, is $50 to $250 cheaper than the various iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S4 models. By offering it at $600 off contract, Blackberry is hoping that their corporate customers who value security over price will shell out the money for the smartphone. The company also stated that, as of now, the Passport would only be carried by AT&T in the United States, which may prove to be a problem for customers who will have to incur changing fees to switch to AT&T.

The company is set to release its second quarter fiscal results on Friday, and it will be interesting to follow the development of the Passport, as financial failure will most likely signal the end of Blackberry’s stake in the handset industry and a refocusing to solely offering secure mobile data management to governments and corporations. Although the innovative Passport epitomizes the research that Blackberry has prided itself on for the last decade, it only targets their loyal customer base and offers little value to the average consumer.

I’m curious to see if corporate customers feel that the Passport is worth the switch from their current smartphones and how efficient the distribution is, considering the company is trying to sell directly to consumers instead of through wireless carriers. Personally, I do not see the Passport rekindling Blackberry’s prominence in the handset market because Blackberry does not have the same large-scale manufacturing as Apple or Samsung, and distribution may not be high enough to cover the abundant costs of producing the phone. In addition, the industry is extremely competitive with the recent release of the iPhone 6, and Blackberry has not been relevant in years, making it difficult to maintain any amount of market power over the giants.

-- Jonathan Wang