Just because BlackBerry has finally admitted that it does have an Android smartphone doesn’t mean everyone might be on board with the plan. And “not everyone” might even include CEO John Chen. The chief executive gave the Business News Network an exclusive glimpse at a working BlackBerry Priv, the company’s first “true” Android smartphone. But in trying to demo the smartphone that “runs Google”, Chen is visibly seen struggling to figure out how to actually use the device, as well as probably some hints of unresponsiveness with the touch screen.
In his defense, Chen is, after all, the CEO of BlackBerry, not of Samsung, of LG, or Motorola, or any other Android device maker. Whatever his familiar experience may be with Android would be through individual apps installed via BlackBerry 10’s Android runtime layer. The BB smartphones themselves would still be using the BB interface and familiar BB gestures and interaction. Then again, as CEO, you would expect Chen to at least be familiar with how his next high profile product works. At least before he goes on air.
This perhaps brings up the hard question that the interviewer asks Chen as well. Is this the smartphone that will bring back BB users who fled in exodus? Long-time Android users might have no problem adapting to the new phone, though they might have other better choices out there as far as hardware is concerned. As Chen himself unintentionally demonstrated, long time BlackBerry users might instead feel lost. The Priv is supposedly the company’s attempt to solve the problem with lack of apps on BB10, but it is doing so at the expense of familiarity with the user interface.
The BlackBerry Priv’s real pull might be that now niche market that uses BlackBerry’s enterprise services but still want to take advantage of the wealth of apps available on a full Android smartphone. And perhaps that even more niche market of users who have grown up with cramped physical QWERTY keyboards on their phones. Whether this play will actually work in BlackBerry’s favor, enough to save the company, we’ll have to wait end of the year to find out.