BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) CEO John Chen announced during today’s earnings call that the company’s new phone, codenamed ‘windermere,’ is officially called the Passport and will be launched this September in London, reports Kevin Michaluk for CrackBerry. CrackBerry also found early pics of Chen holding a Passport, and it’s the size of a mini-tablet. It seems like it would be unwieldy for a phone, but at this point BlackBerry is probably better off taking chances than playing it safe anyhow.
Passport needs to offer something new, not just improvement over past models
The phones look good and are likely to appeal to BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) fans, but Chen is facing a major uphill battle to get people to use them. BlackBerry’s still don’t have the developer support that Android and iOS have, and efforts to bring secure messaging to other phones (BBM Protected is supposed to be rolled out for Android and iOS this year) mean that the best reason for owning a BlackBerry is fading. It’s probably the right strategy for BlackBerry to follow, but it could blunt excitement over a new product launch.
As we wait to hear more details about the BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) Passport, investors will want to know if there are any new features that might really set this phone apart from the competition or a price point that could target a different part of the market. Chen has apparently been hyping the Passport and not talking that much about Classic, so new features in the first and affordability for the second seems like a fair guess. An iterative improvement would be a disappointment because it would mean the company was spending resources designing new phones without a plan to recapture lost market share.
Analysts warming to the turnaround
Analyst sentiment toward BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB) has improved enormously since this time last year, when people were openly wondering if the company could find a single buyer or if it would have to be broken up. It’s a testament to Chen’s leadership that investors are giving the company another chance, even though it still has a long way to go. BGC Financial upgraded BlackBerry from a Sell directly to a Buy, nearly doubling the price target to $15 and a number of other analysts have upgraded it from Sell to Neutral. BlackBerry is up 11% in trading today, reaching a recent high of $9.26.