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Sun 20 Dec 2015 11:54 AM

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BlackBerry to launch Android smartphone in MidEast in January

Latest model comes as the operator reported an improved quarterly balance sheet

BlackBerry to launch Android smartphone in MidEast in January

BlackBerry is to launch its first Android-powered smartphone, the PRIV, in the Middle East in January, the Canadian telco giant announced

The device will be launched in the UAE at the start of 2016 and in Saudi Arabia soon after.

The smartphone brand's latest model will include a dual-curved screen, touch and physical keyboards, state-of-the-art 18MP camera, and a long-lasting battery.

“PRIV is the first BlackBerry smartphone running Android and it creates a new market opportunity for us in the Middle East with users who are entrenched in the Android ecosystem and who are seeking greater productivity and more powerful privacy features,” said Mike Al Mefleh, product management director Middle East, BlackBerry.

“In addition, PRIV is the first Android smartphone to combine the privilege of privacy with all of the most critical features users need to power through their day: a BlackBerry keyboard, large display, excellent battery life, BlackBerry productivity and security features, powerful specs and access to the world’s largest app ecosystem.”

The news comes as it was revealed at the weekend the smartphone operator's
pivot to software has begun to show traction, Reuters reported.

The company reported
a smaller quarterly loss and its first quarter-to-quarter revenue increase in
over two years, sending its stock soaring 13 percent.

Significantly,
gains in software revenue more than offset a steepening decline in legacy
system access fees for the first time, and the Waterloo, Ontario-based company
said this trend should continue.

The company may
break even in the current quarter, but this could be complicated by investments
being made toward growing both software and hardware sales, said chief
executive John Chen, who sees a return to sustainable profitability in fiscal
2017, which begins March 1.

BlackBerry has
staked its turnaround on software and more aggressively licensing its trove of
patents after its once-dominant handsets conceded the consumer smartphone
market.

"BlackBerry
hit a software number that investors have been looking for them to hit for
quite some time," said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello. "I think
the investment in security, in software, is the right move."

The
better-than-expected results were driven by a sharp jump in software and patent
licensing revenues and a higher average selling price for phones, driven by the
PRIV.

"We're
planning on other Android phones, but it all hinges on how we do with the
PRIV," said Chen at a media roundtable, adding the PRIV will be hitting
over 30 countries this quarter.

Chen, who sees
the hardware business possibly turning the corner this quarter, said BlackBerry
is open to licensing some of its proprietary software features.

In the quarter
ended November 28, BlackBerry reported a loss of $89 million, or 17 cents a share.
That compared with a year ago loss of $148 million, or 28 cents a share.

Excluding
restructuring charges and other one-time items, the company posted a loss of
$15 million, or 3 cents a share.

Quarterly
revenue fell 31 percent to $548 million from a year earlier, but rose 12
percent from the prior quarter, after nine consecutive quarters of declines.

Reuters analysts, on
average, expected BlackBerry to post a loss of 14 cents a share on revenue of
$489 million.

Software
revenue more than doubled in the quarter, putting BlackBerry within striking
range of its $500 million target for the fiscal year ending Feb. 29, 2016.

Device sales
also rose for the first time in four quarters to $214 million from $201 million
in the second quarter on the back of the Priv.

BlackBerry sold
700,000 devices, down from about 800,000 in the prior period, but average
selling prices jumped to $315 from $240.

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