BlackBerry could be about to become the most interesting company in the smartphone business: The Canadian telecommunications firm will deliver a minimum of one “unconventional device” per year, according to a new report from Reuters, following the launch of the square-screened Passport last week.
The Passport is definitely an outlier gadget, with its wide-bodied construction (BlackBerry has come up with the amazing tagline “Work Wide” to highlight its significant span) and hardware keyboard, but it’s also the only hardware success BlackBerry has been able to crow about in recent memory. The firm celebrated selling 200,000 of the devices during its launch week, and said the device resulted in a gross profit for its hardware business.
200,000 units in one week is not what one would call a runaway success by the standards of industry leaders like Samsung and Apple, but for BlackBerry, it’s done enough to convince the firm that being the wacky smartphone company might be its best option to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive market. One exec tipped that the next thing we might see is a Passport variant redesigned for better one-handed use, but hopefully it adds something else crazy into the mix.
There just might be something to BlackBerry’s new devices strategy: Being the company backed into a corner means it also has the liberty of taking risks. The Passport was clearly a small run device (200,000 resulting in a sell-out means they invested very little in an initial production order) and that means there was likely less riding on it than on the Z10 and Q10, which by all accounts resulted in huge inventory write-downs thanks to excess stock from overzealous production.
Reviews for the Passport don’t paint the device as a very good choice for most smartphone users, but BlackBerry doesn’t appear to be concerned with that, at least for this phone. If it continues that tradition with even more eccentric hardware as part and parcel of its yearly update cycle, we could be in for a fun ride, at least until investors push for the shutdown of that part of its business.