BlackBerry product roadmap points to smartphone bonanza

A leaked document obtained by BlackBerry news site N4BB shows four smartphones targeting four categories of consumers for this year.

blackberry-passport06.jpg
The unusually shaped BlackBerry Passport is one of four smartphones the company is reportedly planning to launch this year. Roger Cheng/CNET

BlackBerry is poised to have a busy second half of the year with a bevy of smartphone launches.

N4BB, a news site focused on BlackBerry, posted what it claims is BlackBerry's 2014 product roadmap. The document describes four "specific market opportunities": the "affordable Manitoba" for budget-conscious shoppers looking to move beyond feature phones; the "Classic Q20" for cusotmers who want a QWERTY physical keyboard; the "innovative Windermere," also known as the BlackBerry Passport, to bring back former BlackBerry users and business executives who have left the platform; and the "Prestige Khan" aimed at the "affluent and wealthy."

The roadmap and the four potential BlackBerrys are illustrative of BlackBerry's intent to keep on fighting in the smartphone market, despite ceding virtually all of its market share over the last five years to Apple's iPhone and to Android smartphones. Since then, it has sunk into the status of an also-ran, and was lumped earlier this month into the "Others" category in a Counterpoint Research study on US smartphone and handset shipments.

CNET has contacted BlackBerry for comment on the roadmap. We will update this story when we have more information.

Last month, BlackBerry was featured in a list of brands that could disappear in the next year. That report cited BlackBerry's global smartphone market share of less than 1 percent as its main evidence.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen is fighting the perception that the company is doomed. In June, BlackBerry's cost-cutting efforts, which included shedding major assets and reducing its workforce, helped it to beat Wall Street's expectations during its first fiscal quarter. And while it still generated a loss of 11 cents a share, that was far better than the 25 cents to 26 cents a share Wall Street expected.

After the earnings announcement, Chen wouldn't go so far as to say that his company was out of the water, but he did believe that with the right strategy, the worst was behind the troubled mobile firm. The company's focus on large business services, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server, and even its instant-messaging platform BBM, has also helped buoy its value and prospects for success of some sort in the future.

Despite BlackBerry's push toward software, it remains a hardware company at heart. BlackBerry anticipates hitting the higher-end of the market with the "Windmere" Passport handset and Khan around the same time later in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, BlackBerry will update its current "in life" devices to OS 10.3.1, the roadmap says.

It's clear how BlackBerry will market these products, which are intended more for professionals and lingering BlackBerry loyalists. BlackBerry executives have said that they would plan a strong marketing campaign to promote its future products, but it is unlikely that the company will utilize the same tactic as last year's failed consumer-centric marketing blitz. It will likely be more targeted in how it markets the products to potential customers.

The roadmap describes the four main market segments of people who are seeking different things: those who want "contemporary yet affordable" devices; enterprise users looking for "powerful yet uncomplicated" products; individuals seeking "unique yet purposeful" handsets; and the affluent crowd looking for "high design."

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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