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BlackBerry going back to its roots

Toronto - BlackBerry plans to introduce high-end smartphones that cater to keyboard aficionados in the coming 18 months, in an effort to win back core corporate and government clients who have shunned the company’s touchscreen devices.

Chief Executive Officer John Chen said the company’s engineers have designed at least three different next-generation handsets that are being “kicked around right now.”

File photo: Chen, viewed by tech industry insiders as a turnaround artist, wants BlackBerry to zero in on its core base of corporate and government clients. Credit: AP

“The focus is going to be very keyboard-centric,” said Chen, the former Sybase CEO who took the reins of the Canadian company just over four months ago.

Chen, viewed by tech industry insiders as a turnaround artist, wants BlackBerry to zero in on its core base of corporate and government clients, and on its services arm, which secures mobile devices on the internal networks of big clients.

He sees that strategy as the best way to reverse market share losses to Apple, Samsung Electronics, and other companies that make smartphones powered by Google’s Android operating system. BlackBerry reported a fiscal fourth-quarter loss on Friday.

Last month, at the annual Mobile World Congress trade fair in Barcelona, Spain, BlackBerry unveiled a new “classic” model with a keyboard that boasts a return of the command keys that include Menu, Back, Send, and End, along with a trackpad. The device, dubbed the Q20, will hit store shelves before the end of 2014.

Last year, BlackBerry’s product launches emphasised full touchscreens. And even the keyboard-equipped devices that it did introduce came without the command keys, alienating some of its die-hard fans.

Chen, who has been meeting with BlackBerry clients, said another item that may be on the agenda is bringing the company’s popular BlackBerry Messenger service, known as BBM, from mobile devices onto desktop computers.

Such a move, Chen said, would allow employees of big companies and government agencies to go mobile on group chats started on their PCs, without skipping a beat.

“We are certainly going to take a very serious look at putting BBM on the desktop,” he said. - Reuters

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