BlackBerry to cease production of Classic handset

BlackBerry said it will stop producing its flagship BlackBerry Classic phone, although it will continue to develop its proprietary mobile operating system – for now, at least.

The onetime king of the mobile enterprise has foundered as Google's Android and Apple's iOS have come to dominate the market, and in November BlackBerry launched the Android-based Priv. While Priv sales appear to have fallen short of expectations, the company is reportedly planning to launch three new Android handsets over the next nine months.

It will not manufacture a new Classic, however.

"To keep innovating and advancing our portfolio, we are updating our smartphone lineup with state of the art devices. As part of this, and after many successful years in the market, we will no longer manufacture BlackBerry Classic," wrote Ralph Pini, BlackBerry's chief operating officer and general manager for devices, on the company's blog. "For many years, Classic (and its BBOS predecessors) has been in our portfolio…. But the Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone in today's market. We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better – entrenched in our legacy in security and pedigree in making the most productive smartphones."

BlackBerry last month posted a $670 million net loss in the first quarter of its financial year, including a $501 million write-down of its smartphone business. The company recorded $166 million in hardware revenues during the period, falling well shy of analysts' estimates in the range of $200 million.

CEO John Chen said last month that BlackBerry still hopes to regain at least a toehold in the smartphone market it once reigned, however. Some analysts expect the company to leave the hardware business entirely as worldwide smartphone sales slow and margins winnow. But Chen said at the company's annual investors meeting that while he doesn't believe devices will "be the future of any company," BlackBerry is maintaining its focus on making its devices business profitable.

BlackBerry still faces a huge challenge in differentiating its handsets from a glut of other devices running Android.

For more:
- see this BlackBerry blog post

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