BlackBerry chief executive officer Thorsten Heins showed off a new keyboard phone targeted at the developing world on Tuesday and says the company will extend its signature BBM messaging service to iPhones and Android devices.
At a conference in Florida for BlackBerry developers, Heins showed off a prototype of the Q5, which will run on the company's new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
It is a slightly stripped-down version of other BlackBerry models, aimed at consumers in emerging markets who may not have as much disposable income as their counterparts in wealthier nations.
Heins said the device, the company's third new smartphone this year, will be available in select markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, starting in July.
The device comes with many of the new features included in BlackBerry 10, including Time Shift, BlackBerry Hub and the company's iconic messaging service.
Low-cost market expected to grow
Analysts responded with cautious optimism to the move.
"The Q5 could be a very significant device for the company, as there is a significant opportunity for high-quality, low-cost smartphones," said Adam Leach, principal device and platforms analyst at Ovum.
Leach notes that emerging markets made up only 17 per cent of global smartphone shipments in 2011, but that figure is expected to jump to 40 per cent by 2017.
"The crucial aspect of the Q5 launch will be its price and if Blackberry can address the sub-$100 smartphone opportunity," Leach said.
BlackBerry did not announce pricing information at the unveiling on Tuesday.
Offering BBM to iPhone, Android users a gamble
Heins also announced that BBM, the company's signature service that allows BlackBerry users to send secure messages to each other will soon be available on iPhones and Android-powered smartphones.
"It's a statement of confidence," he told the audience in Orlando, Fla.
The move is a gamble for the company, which has many loyal users who have stuck with their BlackBerry devices just to keep access to BBM.
Heins said the iPhone and Android versions of the application, which will be available for free, will start with messaging and then roll out other features, including the ability to share video, audio and other types of content.
BlackBerry shares gained a little over one per cent in New York, trading at $16.03 US on the Nasdaq at midday on Tuesday.