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BlackBerry CEO John Chen, coming off his company's disappointing fiscal 2016 second-quarter results, announced today what many tech watchers had long been expecting: a BlackBerry-branded smartphone running Google's Android mobile operating system (OS).
In a statement, Chen revealed the latest tactic to improve the performance of his company's flagging phone unit. "Today, I am confirming our plans to launch Priv, an Android device named after BlackBerry’s heritage and core mission of protecting our customers' privacy," he said.
The new smartphone, teased briefly in March during Mobile World Congress, will feature a sliding keyboard and unspecified enhancements that improve data privacy on the popular Android OS. "Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform," said Chen.
BlackBery's Android-based Priv smartphone has been two years in the making, said Chen in a company blog post. "It began with honing in on our DNA of security, privacy and productivity, and then bringing that heritage and continued innovation to other operating systems," he wrote. "It's a terrific proposition for dedicated Android users who are seeking greater productivity and powerful privacy features."
Bringing Prive to market "is a tremendous new market opportunity as we continue our focus on building a cross-platform strategy," Chen added. In recent years, the company has channeled its secure mobile messaging and device management expertise into providing secure mobile-device into high-margin enterprise software.
Earlier this month, BlackBerry announced that it was acquiring mobile device management (MDM) provider Good Technology for $425 million.
"By providing even stronger cross-platform capabilities our customers will not have to compromise on their choice of operating systems, deployment models or any level of privacy and security," said Chen in a Sept. 4 announcement. The deal, which is currently pending regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the current quarter.
On Wednesday, BlackBerry announced that it had completed the acquisition of AtHoc for an undisclosed amount. The multiplatform AtHoc crisis communications technology is used by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and private industry to issue and manage safety alerts and other communications during emergencies and events that place business continuity at risk.
BlackBerry's move to Android shouldn't be mistaken for a complete defection, Chen said.
He assured that faithful that "fans of BlackBerry's workhorse BlackBerry 10 smartphones can continue to depend on us," before pledging OS updates during the upcoming year. "There is continued demand for our flagship BlackBerry 10 devices like BlackBerry Passport and Classic by consumers, enterprises and regulated industries."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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