BlackBerry Proves Not Dead Yet With New Business-Friendly Handset

Sep 24, 2014

Determined not to become square pegs in a round hole, BlackBerry is today launching new phone and the final piece in its three-year-long turnaround: The BlackBerry Passport.

It's an apt name for the unusually shaped device. The Canadian company has designed its new smartphone with a large square screen and a unique, touch-sensitive tactile keyboard that may appeal to those who are bored with the analogous swathe of smartphones flooding the crowded market.

When BlackBerry launches the Passport today, the focus is likely to be on its benefits for corporate users. The company's CEO, John Chen, has made no secret of the fact that he wishes to rebuild relations with the enterprise market – the proverbial keystone of BlackBerry's business.

Measuring 4.5in, the Passport has been "designed from the ground up for the working professional in mind," according to a BlackBerry blog post.

That brings us right back to the square screen. The smartphone's manufacturers say that the shape means the Passport can display up to 60 characters across. This means that spreadsheets, medical charts, reports and other enterprise-based documents will be easily readable from a device that can fit in your suit pocket.

BlackBerry has been fighting for survival for the past three years, having entered into an unforgiving restructuring process under Chen's leadership.

The one-time industry leader slashed 60 per cent of its work force, as well as selling non-core assets and building new partnerships to make the company's manufacturing and supply chain more efficient.

'We're Going To Resume Growth'

A well-respected turnaround wizard in the tech space, Chen has promised that the period of turmoil is over, and the company now has plans to grow again. The launch of Passport will likely be that first phase.

He promised in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that when the device launches today, it will do so with a price tag of $599. In comparison, the new iPhone 6 retails for $649 without contract and the Samsung Galaxy S5 for $650.

UK pricing has yet to be confirmed.

Clearly, BlackBerry is aiming to carve off a lion share of the enterprise market once more. Either way the BlackBerry Passport's performance at launch will be a thorough testing of Chen's strategy, as well as a fascinating bellwether for the company's potential in the future.

Author: Alysia Judge
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