CES 2014: BlackBerry may return its focus to keyboard-equipped phones

At the CES 2014, BlackBerry CEO John Chen indicated that the smartphone vendor may return its focus to keyboard-equipped phones.

Last year, BlackBerry struggled to entice customers with touch-screen models under the earlier CEO Thorsten Heins and top management, Bloomberg reported.

“I personally love the keyboards,” Chen said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg Television’s Jon Erlichman at the International CES in Las Vegas. In the future, the company’s phones will “predominantly” have physical keyboards, he said, rather than touch screens.

Blackberry Q10-hands-on-3

Chen, who took the CEO job in November, is trying to rebuild the company after last year’s BlackBerry 10 touch-screen lineup fizzled with consumers — contributing to billions of dollars of write downs. As part of his comeback plan, BlackBerry is refocusing on the corporate and government customers that fueled its early success. Those users preferred real keyboards because they made it easier to hammer out e-mails.

Last month, Chen announced a five-year deal with Foxconn Technology Group to outsource the manufacturing and design of some of its phones, aiming to offload more of the costs of its unprofitable manufacturing operations.

While the first Foxconn-built phone is expected to be a touch-screen device, Chen said the traditional keyboard will hold sway in the long run.

BlackBerry is suing the maker of a snap-on keypad accessory for the iPhone, saying it resembles its products.

The Typo, which clicks onto Apple’s iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, violates BlackBerry’s patents and designs, according to the complaint. The maker of the keyboard, a Los Angeles startup founded by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, said it would vigorously defend itself against the suit.

Last week, BlackBerry hired former HTC Corp. and Sony Ericsson executive Ron Louks to run its devices business.



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