BlackBerry, which has stood fast with its own operating system for its products for years, is now looking at running Android on a future BlackBerry smartphone as it fights to remain relevant in the marketplace.
The Android possibility was raised on a June 11 Reuters report, based on four sources who asked that they remain anonymous, according to the story.
“The sources … said the move to use Android is part of BlackBerry’s strategy to pivot to focus on software and device management,” the report said. “It is not clear whether a move to use Android would spell the end of the company’s BlackBerry 10 line of devices that were initially launched to much fanfare in early 2013.”
If BlackBerry would give an Android phone a try, two sources told Reuters that it could come up with some of the patented features in its BlackBerry 10 operating system. “Two sources said that by launching an Android-based device of its own, BlackBerry would be sending a signal to skeptics that it is confident that the BES12 system can not only manage, but also secure smartphones and tablets powered by rival operating systems.”
The report said that the potential Android device will probably be “an upcoming slider device that is likely to be released this autumn, two sources said. The slider will combine a touch-screen with a physical keyboard that users can use if they prefer.”
With such a device with a large touch-screen and a physical keyboard, “BlackBerry hopes to snag a niche in the touch-screen-dominated Android market,” the report continued. “The device may attract those still using older BlackBerry keyboard handhelds but who want access to the larger app options Android offers.”
In an email reply to an inquiry from eWEEK about the report, a BlackBerry spokesperson wrote: “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation, but we remain committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which provides security and productivity benefits that are unmatched.”
However, it wouldn’t be the first time that the company has been at least looking at being involved with other operating systems. In March at Mobile World Congress, BlackBerry unveiled its plans for a new BlackBerry Experience Suite that will adapt much of its BlackBerry software to run on Android, iOS and Windows smartphones and tablets as it looks to broaden its reach into the enterprise even when companies are using competing devices.
The BlackBerry Experience Suite, expected to be available by the end of 2015, aims to help enterprises and small businesses bring enterprise-class applications to their end users from a trusted partner such as BlackBerry, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
Also announced at that time was a cross-platform Enterprise Mobile Management Cloud for enterprises and small and midsize businesses to help companies better manage their deployments of Android, iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 smartphones and tablets.
In March, BlackBerry launched a surprise smartphone, the Leap, which replaces the traditional BlackBerry physical keypad with a modern touch-screen aimed at getting the company’s devices into the hands of younger mobile professionals. This device can now possibly be viewed as a bridge to an Android device as the company continues to tweak its product line to draw in more customers.
Still, any move to build and market a smartphone containing an operating system other than BlackBerry would certainly be a disturbing blow to the company’s long history of building its own secure and sturdy enterprise operating system.
BlackBerry’s fall from dominating the enterprise smartphone market has been swift and stunning. In early 2006, before the first iPhones appeared from Apple, half of all smartphones sold were BlackBerry models. By 2009, though, its share of the global smartphone market was down to 20 percent. The company continues to face growing competition from Apple, Samsung, Google and others.
In the first quarter of 2015, BlackBerry’s worldwide market share fell to 0.3 percent, compared with 78 percent for Android and 18.3 percent for iOS, according to a recent report from IDC. Windows Phone has a 2.7 percent market share.
BlackBerry spent much of 2012 and 2013 trying to shake off the image that it was finished, especially compared with five years earlier when its devices were the “enterprise gold standard” for mobile business communications.
In December 2014, BlackBerry reported mixed financial results in its fiscal 2015 third quarter, which ended Nov. 29, with a continuing drop in GAAP revenue to $793 million, down 13.43 percent from $916 million in the prior quarter. However, the company narrowed its GAAP losses 28.5 percent to $148 million from $207 million.