After years of speculation that BlackBerry should just give up on the company’s own platform and start making Android phones, it might actually happen. Unlike the previous speculation and prognostication, however, it doesn’t look like BlackBerry would turn into just another Android vendor. Instead, the Android device may help BlackBerry improve its standing as a device management company.
Once the top smartphone vendor, BlackBerry devices are slowly going extinct, accounting for less than 1 percent of worldwide smartphone sales during the first three months of 2015, according to market research firm Gartner. In the U.S., BlackBerry smartphones accounted for 1.5 percent of the market, based on the latest numbers from metrics firm ComScore.
With such lackluster enthusiasm for its handsets, BlackBerry has changed its focus over the last few years to offering support services for multiple device platforms. A key part of that strategy right now is BlackBerry Enterprise Server 12 (BES12), which allows IT pros to manage all kinds of devices on corporate networks, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows.
To help prove BES12’s multi-platform chops to skeptics, BlackBerry wants to release its own Android phone, according to Reuters. The news agency also says the slider device that the company showed off during Mobile World Congress could end up being BlackBerry’s first Android phone. The device shown at MWC featured a curved touchscreen display with a slideout keyboard in the back.
The impact on you at home: For BlackBerry fans, an Android device from the company may offer the best of both worlds. On the one hand, you get access to a host of Android apps from Google Play or a third-party store like Amazon’s. Plus you get all the great BlackBerry software features you’re used to. Although soon you may not need a BlackBerry phone for that, because the company plans to bring more of its software to competing platforms as the BlackBerry Experience Suite.
It’s not clear whether a BlackBerry-branded Android device would be available to consumers or remain strictly an enterprise product. BlackBerry could also sell the device on its own site, as it does with the Leap and Passport handsets.
Reuters also suggests that even if BlackBerry produces an Android-based phone it could still produce devices using its own operating system, BlackBerry 10.
So far BlackBerry reportedly hasn’t committed to anything, which means this may yet be another moment where the BlackBerry-Android mashup fails to appear. But if ever there was a time for the company to try making an Android phone, this is it.
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.