BlackBerry said to be mulling Android smartphone move

Canadian mobile company BlackBerry is contemplating making a new smartphone that will use Android as its operating system, rather than BlackBerry’s own platform, according to Reuters’ sources.

Nothing has been confirmed by BlackBerry and, inevitably, it stressed its commitment to BlackBerry 10 when Reuters inquired, with Google also keeping its cards close to its chest. A couple of sources reckon Android will make an appearance on a ‘slider’ device later this year that will maintain the option of a physical keyboard so associated with BlackBerry smartphones.

While the iPhone is often blamed for the demise of former mobile handset market leaders such as BlackBerry and Nokia, in terms of market share the real damage was done by Android, which currently accounts for around 80% of the global smartphone installed base. Apple may have redefined the smartphone, but Google made an equivalent UI and ecosystem available to all other smartphone OEMs.

Back in 2008, when iOS and Android were just finding their feet, Nokia and BlackBerry were the dominant smartphone makers, using the Symbian and BlackBerry OSs, respectively. Their initial response to these twin new threats was to reinvest in what had previously been so successful for them, but they either failed to fully grasp the nature of the threat or were culturally incapable of adapting – probably a bit of both.

Android and iOS weren’t just competing smartphone platforms, they completely redefined the concept. The UIs were much more suited to a touch screen and the apps being developed were far more attractive to consumers. Nokia and Blackberry thought the differences were cosmetic but they were wrong. BlackBerry even sulkily offered to emulate Android apps on its platform in 2011, but by then it was already too late.

Under its current CEO John Chen BlackBerry has split itself into four parts: devices, the BBM messaging app, BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) and QNX smart car platform. It has done so in order to promote the latter three beyond the confines of BlackBerry devices, so exploring new smartphone platforms would be consistent with that strategy.

The Reuters article reckons a driver for this move would be to help to demonstrate that BES can be used to manage devices on platforms other than BlackBerry and, besides, what has BlackBerry got to lose with a current global smartphone market share of less than 1%?

Incidentally Reuters is also reporting that Taiwanese computing giant Asus is contemplating buying smartphone maker HTC, which is currently available on the cheap after warning its Q2 revenues were going to fall way short of expectations.

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