Android on a BlackBerry slider smartphone idea gets mixed reviews

BlackBerry may run the Android operating system on a slider smartphone coming this fall, according to unnamed sources in a Reuters report.

In response to the report, four analysts offered mixed reactions. None was optimistic that an Android hardware strategy will work for the beleaguered BlackBerry, however.

BlackBerry commands just 1% of the smartphone market and has so far relied on its own operating system, with the latest iteration dubbed BlackBerry 10.

"I'd be surprised if they actually release an Android phone," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "There is no real advantage for them to do so. Phones are a very low margin business, and Android would be even lower margins." He noted that BlackBerry 10 phones already run Android apps.

Building an Android phone might make sense if doing so somehow emphasizes that BlackBerry wants to focus on being a security-focused company driven by software and services, Gold and other analysts said.

"BlackBerry could wrap many of their inherent security features into the device, which would be unique," Gold said. Having the slider phone work with a physical keyboard and a touchscreen, as reported, on Android would also be unique, he noted.

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar WorldPanel, said BlackBerry's attempts to make its BlackBerry OS popular have so far failed. If BlackBerry wants to focus on its management and services capabilities, as it has expressed, "it would make sense to go with Android and try to appeal to enterprise users by offering a highly secure Android device," she said.

Even so, she was skeptical. "Why do they continue to think that making hardware should be something they need to be involved in to be successful" she asked. "I am sure they think if they control the hardware, they can deliver a tighter offer, which is fine, but only if they get enough volume."

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said moving to an Android smartphone "is something BlackBerry should have done years ago." He said BlackBerry doesn't have the software know-how or size to to compete with Apple, Google or Microsoft. An Android phone from BlackBerry would be "the beginning of the end for BlackBerry OS," he concluded.

Ramon Llamas, an analyst at IDC, said he's skeptical that an Android phone from BlackBerry will happen. If it does occur, he said BlackBerry would face a multi-OS battle "which is something where few vendors have succeeded." Only Samsung has been able to sustain production of both Android and Windows Phone smartphones, and Samsung's plans for using the Tizen OS were scrubbed more than once last year, he noted.

BlackBerry issued a statement saying it remains committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system but didn't comment on the report of a possible Android smartphone.

"We don't comment on rumors and speculation, but we remain committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which provides security and productivity benefits that are unmatched," a spokeswoman said via email.


Matt Hamblen

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