LESS THAN FRUITFUL mobile phone maker Blackberry has announced plans to produce a budget smartphone.
The comments it made at this year's CES suggest that despite earlier expectations that the troubled company was preparing to withdraw from the consumer market, it might not be ready to give up yet.
Blackberry CEO Jon Chen told reporters that the company's next device will be a touchscreen phone and will cost less than $200, in an attempt to lure consumer customers back.
However, with several new mobile operating systems such as Sailfish and Mozilla's Firefox OS moving into the consumer smartphone market, the road back to relevance and profits will be hard.
Late last year, Blackberry announced that it would hand over production of entry level devices to Chinese device maker Foxconn in order to reduce costs.
At the roundtable session at CES, Chen said, "For emerging markets, Blackberry will let Foxconn take a bigger role," he said. "But we will do the next set of cool phones."
Blackberry's spectacular fall from grace in recent years has been tempered by the success of its Blackberry Messenger service (BBM), which garnered 10 million downloads in its first 24 hours of availability on Android and iOS and topped the app stores of both mobile ecosystems. Blackberry previewd a new version of BBM at CES in Las Vegas that adds support for voice and video calling.
However, the company cannot survive on its messenger product alone. While it seems that, for now at least, the company is geared towards reviving its fortunes in the enterprise segment of the smartphone market, its days as a player in consumer phones might not be numbered after all. µ