After months of rumors, BlackBerry CEO John Chen confirmed rumors that the Canadian smartphone maker was releasing a keyboard-equipped phone running the Android operating system. It’s called the Priv, for “privilege” and “privacy.”
“What’s unique about our Android phone is that we are collaborating with Google to bring the best of BlackBerry security and productivity to the Android ecosystem,” Chen wrote in a post on BlackBerry’s company blog.
Fork You, Developers
With this move, BlackBerry is making an already mixed message to developers more muddled. Chen said BlackBerry would continue to support and develop the BB 10 operating system. Yet BlackBerry has also been encouraging developers to write apps for Android and then adapt them for newer BlackBerry devices. The result is a lot of low-quality apps.
BlackBerry’s most devoted developers haven’t been excited by Android. One developer, who goes by the username helex on BlackBerry’s developer forums, wrote in August:
I personally use BlackBerry because it is not Android and a lot more advanced and “more open” than iOS. So from this personal aspect I’m not interested in Android and in case BlackBerry10 goes “END OF LIFE” (which I don’t belive since many enterprise and gouvernment customers are relying on it) I would need to search a new platform to play with, to use and to target my own apps on. But we’re still far away from there, yet.
That’s BlackBerry’s challenge in a nutshell. The Priv won’t appeal to its most loyal developers—a small but vocal group, who are often creating special-purpose business apps for customers who standardized on BlackBerrys in their workplaces.
The Priv will, however, have access to the far larger pool of Android developers, who won’t have to learn a new set of tools for adapting their Android apps to run on BlackBerry’s proprietary BB 10 operating system.
It all seems too little, too late. BlackBerry’s trading on the affections of consumers who cherish the BlackBerry brand and physical features like the keyboard, while confusing developers who make the apps on which smartphones live or die.
Screenshot via BNN.ca