BlackBerry Lets Go of Its Classic Phone

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BlackBerry on Tuesday announced it will cease manufacturing the BlackBerry Classic.

"The Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone in today's market," noted COO Ralph Pini. "To keep innovating and advancing our portfolio, we are updating our smartphone lineup with state-of-the-art devices."

BlackBerry intends to continue supporting its BlackBerry 10 platform while expanding to include Android. It plans to release BB 10.3.3 next month and make another refresh next year.

The transition from BB 10 to Android will be seamless, according to the company, and it will not require any compromises when it comes to security.

BlackBerry "has made clear that it will focus on Android devices going forward," observed Ken Hyers, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

The company reportedly is working on three new Android phones, codenamed "Neon," "Argon" and "Mercury," and expects to release one every quarter.

"That matches what I'm hearing," Hyers told the E-Commerce Times. "BlackBerry's strategy going forward is to create a portfolio of devices that serve a range of customers at different price levels -- hence, the Neon for the mid-tiers; the Argon for higher-tier customers; and the Mercury for the remaining BlackBerry die-hards who want a physical keyboard."

BlackBerry earlier this year launched the Priv, which has sold "extremely poorly so far due to its high price and [the company's] lack of distribution channels," Hyers said.

However, it's "a good phone," he maintained, and he currently uses it himself.

Meanwhile, the United States Senate has decided to stop purchasing BlackBerry smartphones to issue to staff but will use up existing stock.

The Sergeant at Arms late last month notified administrative managers, chief clerks and sysadmins of the decision, according to Jim Swift, who posted a copy of the memo on his personal blog.

Swift, who worked in the Senate as an aide for four years, is now deputy online editor of The Weekly Standard.

BlackBerry reportedly has notified Verizon and AT&T that it has discontinued production of all BB 10 devices -- the Q10, Z10, Z30, Passport and Classic, the memo states.

"It was sent to me by a friend who's IT director for a Republican senator who received it from the SAA," Swift told the E-Commerce Times.

BlackBerry would not confirm the report regarding the other models named, or whether it had so notified the carriers mentioned.

Verizon and AT&T did not respond to our request to provide comment for this story.

Loss of the U.S. Senate's custom "won't have a major impact on BlackBerry in terms of sales, but it's a key customer loss in the important government segment, where BlackBerry has long been strong [and] is fighting a rearguard action to remain relevant versus the iPhone and Android devices," Hyers said.

Still, BlackBerry is "the mobile wireless gold standard" in terms of security, he pointed out.

Since the company's software solutions can work on other mobile platforms, it's no longer necessary from a hardware standpoint to use BlackBerry devices, Hyers said. The company "clearly has a much better chance to survive with software and services solutions."

It has "great products in this category and is a known quantity among key enterprise and government customers," he remarked. "Being no longer tied to a single hardware platform gives [BlackBerry] greater flexibility and an enormously larger addressable market."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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