BlackBerry Moving to Android Over BB10 for Smartphones in 2016

CEO John Chen says BlackBerry's next two smartphones in 2016 will get Android instead of BB10 as the company changes its strategy.  

BlackBerry Priv, BB10, smartphones, mobile security, BlackBerry, Android, John Chen

BlackBerry will run Android on its next two smartphone models in 2016, instead of its flagship BB10 mobile operating system, as it works to increase sales and find new energy in its hardware business.

The move to Android over BlackBerry's BB10 OS was revealed by the company's CEO, John Chen, in an interview at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, according to a Jan. 7 article by Pocket-Lint. Chen said the company will unveil two new mobile devices in 2016 and that both will run on Android, the report continued.

BlackBerry did not respond to several requests from eWEEK for comment about the announcement.

The move to an Android phone won't be BlackBerry's first. That distinction goes to the company's Priv handset (pictured), which was released in November 2015 with a 5.4-inch curved glass touch-screen display, a 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, along with Android 5.1. The Priv was aimed at enticing new users who want a different kind of phone with touch-screen capabilities and a true keyboard, along with the wide array of apps available for Android. BlackBerry is hitching much of its future hardware business on the new device, which is selling well, according to the company. Sales of the phone will be expanded to 31 countries by the end of February, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The Priv was unveiled in hopes that it will help the company reclaim some of the hardware market share that it has lost to Android phones and Apple's iPhones. BlackBerry, which has stood fast with its own operating system for its products for years, made a huge shift by releasing an Android phone, but found itself in the position of having to try something new to remain relevant as a smartphone maker.

Several IT analysts eWEEK contacted said that the move to create and market more Android devices by BlackBerry is a good one.

Maribel Lopez, principal of Lopez Research, told eWEEK that she likes Chen's move because he is willing to do what is needed and that "there are no sacred cows with him. The entire management team has been saying that they can't get rid of the BB10 OS because that's who they are. But that's not the battle to fight. If you're not Microsoft, it's just not worth fighting that battle."

Abandoning the need to build and maintain its own OS gives BlackBerry more resources to fight the real battles where it can actually make progress in today's marketplace, said Lopez.

"That means you can take your engineering resources and redeploy them for other things, like mobile security stuff on top of Android," she said. "Who is making money on operating systems anyway? So they've got to get rid of that stuff."

For BlackBerry, that will free the company up to be able to make money in the markets where it can be competitive, particularly in the secure device landscape that's a logical place for it to fight, said Lopez.

In the meantime, it still makes sense for BlackBerry to offer devices because they can still pack them with their deep security offerings, which enterprise users will continue to need, she said. "There's room, especially in the IoT world, for specialized hardware. I fully expect BlackBerry to have some kind of hardware in the future that goes with the overarching ecosystem."