BlackBerry parts ways with creative director Alicia Keys

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) has a new CEO and a new strategy and is ending its one-year partnership with musician and singer Alicia Keys, who had served as a global creative director for the company in a bid to spark demand for its BlackBerry 10 platform and phones.

In a statement sent to multiple media outlets, BlackBerry offered no specific reason for Keys' departure, which will take effect Jan. 30. "BlackBerry and Alicia Keys have completed our yearlong collaboration," the statement said.

"We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual," BlackBerry said in the statement, adding that Keys was a driving force behind the "BlackBerry Keep Moving Project" and also helped launch the BlackBerry Scholars program, which works to get more women involved with science and math.

Keys' appointment as creative director was announced at the end of January 2013, when former CEO Thorsten Heins unveiled the company's first two BlackBerry 10 smartphones. As the Canadian Press notes, she appeared at numerous corporate events throughout 2013 and in some of the company's promotional material. Keys stirred controversy after she continued to use an iPhone to post on Twitter; Keys said her account had been hacked.

One of Keys' main jobs was to draw attention and build excitement around BB10, but so far those efforts have largely not succeeded, and BB10 smartphone sales have been dismal. In the company's last quarter, BlackBerry said it sold 4.3 million smartphones to end customers, and only 1.1 million were its newer BlackBerry 10 smartphones.

Last month, as it reported a $4.4 billion net loss for its fiscal third quarter, the company forged a five-year manufacturing deal with Foxconn for the contract manufacturer to jointly develop and manufacture some of BlackBerry's new lower-end devices and manage the inventory associated with those devices.

In a conference call last month with analysts, CEO John Chen said the company will focus on "secure, end-to-end offerings in mobile computing" and will have four main business units: devices, enterprise software and services, its BlackBerry Messenger platform and QNX-based embedded technologies for M2M.

For more:
- see this Canadian Press article
- see this NYT article
- see this The Verge article
- see this Re/code article

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