Canadian tech giant launches new smartphone at simultaneous events in Dubai, Toronto and London
BlackBerry launched an unconventional new smartphone dubbed the Passport on Wednesday as it embarked on what may be the most critical phase of its long turnaround push.
At simultaneous events in Toronto, London and Dubai, BlackBerry showed off the device, which is the size and shape of a closed passport, with a large square touchscreen as well as a keyboard. The Passport comes to market as the phones of BlackBerry's rivals converge on a single profile, with tall, rectangular screens and smooth corners.
In Dubai, it will cost from AED2,699 ($734) and will be on sale from BlackBerry store in Dubai Mall from 5pm on Thursday.
Users can type on the Passport's keyboard to enter text, or swipe lightly across it to navigate through the phone.
BlackBerry recently concluded a three-year restructuring process, and it is now up to Chief Executive John Chento prove that the company's new devices and services are capable of generating sustainable new streams of revenue and returning it to profit.
"BlackBerry is still fighting for survival. They still need to turn around and develop a viable ongoing business model," said Morningstar analyst Brian Colello.
"Their products are certainly pointing toward that and the new strategy makes sense, but there is still a lot of execution risk at this point in a very competitive market."
At the Toronto event, Chen brought out retired National Hockey League star Wayne Gretzky to talk up the Passport's features.
The device is set to go on sale in some markets on Wednesday, with a suggested introductory retail price of C$699 ($629) in Canada and $599 in the United States.
BlackBerry said it expects the price on contract to be about $249, depending on the carrier, and that the phone should be available in more than 30 countries by the end of the year. It will be carried by AT&T in the United States.
Passport users will be able to download apps from Amazon's app store, previously only available for Android-based phones. BlackBerry announced the deal that cleared the way for its customers to access Amazon's store in June.
The launch kicks off a busy period for Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry. The company is set to report its second-quarter results on Friday and within a couple of months it is also expected to launch the long-awaited BlackBerry Classic, which bears similarities to its once wildly popular Bold smartphone.
"BlackBerry just needs one hit phone for now," Colello said. "It doesn't quite matter whether it is the Passport, the Classic or anything else, but they do need one device to jump-start the hardware business again."
The company hopes the Classic and the launch of its new mobile device management system - BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 (BES12) - will help it claw back ground ceded to rivals in both the hardware and services market.
The BES 12 platform will allow IT managers at large companies and government agencies to not only manage and secure BlackBerry devices, but also manage Windows-based devices, and more easily administer Androidand iOS devices.
Chen, a well-regarded turnaround expert in the tech sector, wants BlackBerry to remain a competitor in thesmartphone arena, but he is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas such as mobile data security and mobile device management.
BlackBerry is betting that the enhanced security features on its BES 12 platform, coupled with a range of value-added services, will help revive revenue growth and stem its slide.
BlackBerry's shares rose 2.9 percent to $10.87 in early trading on Nasdaq on Wednesday.mobile phone news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Great phone, but I will wait until the prices in UAE are in line with the ones in the US. Or will buy it used. Not ready to put money in the greedy UAE distributors pockets!
I agree. Better to wait until the prices settle or just get it from abroad.
This exact same device is selling for USD 599 in the US and everyone knows it. Why the price difference? Do they fly the units into Dubai one by one and in business class or what?
Poor pricing strategy albeit for just a few weeks, especially from a manufacturer that is struggling to rebuild its brand image and market share. Yes, Google search does work in Dubai including with "blackberry", "passport", "price" and 'dollars" as keywords, and no, more expensive is not synonymous with better in the minds of people in Dubai. Probably an attempt from BB Waterloo or BB London to cash in more from the first wave of sales in Dubai. Attempt failed. Welcome to the global village that is earth, BB. The weather and customs this side of the village are a little different, but the year is the same, 2014 :)
lets not forget $599 is the price before tax.
Lets not forget that on US Blackberry shop you could buy it for $499 last week (special offer!)