After a nearly disastrous year and facing an expected negative earnings report Friday, BlackBerry hopes to start 2014 on a more positive note with interim CEO John Chen. There's also a recent company commitment to helping developers more easily port Android apps to the BlackBerry World app store.
Chen, a former head of Sybase, was named Blackberry's interim CEO and executive chairman on Nov. 4, following a failed process to find a buyer to take the phone maker private.
Analysts, meanwhile, are expecting the recent earnings quarter, which ended Nov. 30, to close at a loss, the seventh quarterly loss in a row.
Chen's appointment followed the resignation of CEO Thorsten Heins and a fateful September announcement that BlackBerry was taking nearly $1 billion in charges for unsold smartphones, primarily the Z10 touchscreen device.
Chen noted in a blog shortly after his appointment that BlackBerry has "significant financial strength for the long haul" and would leverage its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 mobility management platform and a new device strategy focused on enterprise users.
"We are also leveraging our tremendous assets, including BlackBerry Messenger, our network and QNX," the BlackBerry kernel behind the BlackBerry 10 OS used in the Z10 and other devices, he said.
In mid-November, BlackBerry also released the latest BlackBerry 10.2.1 operating system to developers to help them make Android apps as "compatible as possible" with BlackBerry devices. Blackberry hoped that developers would repackage their Android apps to submit to BlackBerry World for sales.
The new 10.2.1 release will be available to the public sometime in 2014, a spokeswoman told Computerworld.
A major criticism of the BlackBerry OS has been a shortage of apps that will run on BlackBerry devices, especially when compared to Android apps, which number more than 1 billion in the Google Play store. By comparison, BlackBerry World has more than 130,000 apps, a BlackBerry spokeswoman said Thursday, about the same amount reported by BlackBerry in late September.
Some IT managers believe Android support is critical to BlackBerry's future success. "BlackBerry should make a bigger push to accept Android apps, since right now you have to essentially sideload them and compatibility issues abound," said Andrew Shattuck, a senior technical support analyst at Rocky Mountain Human Services in Denver in an interview..
Blackberry "has to plan to compete in a two-sided market," comprised of Android and iOS, Shattuck said. "It's their only direction." As smartphones get faster processors, Shattuck said HTML 5 and Java Script developers will surely build more cross-platform apps that can work with BlackBerry and other operating systems.
BlackBerry, in the latter part of 2014, fell to fourth place in smartphone shipments, trailing behind third-place Windows Phone, each with less than 5% of the market, according to IDC and other analysts. Android dominates smartphone shipments globally, with Apple's iOS in second.
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