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article imageBlackBerry signals it could abandon BB10 for Android after all

By James Walker     Jan 31, 2016 in Technology
When BlackBerry launched the Priv in late 2015, its first Android-powered smartphone, the company promised it wouldn't let its own BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system suffer as a result. This week the company indicated it may be rethinking that.
As TechRadar reports, BlackBerry signalled it could be ready to move entirely to Android this year during the Priv's Indian launch event this week. The aging operating system is still a fan favourite and has become popular with security advocates, but is harder to sell than Android phones.
The Economic Times reports Damian Tay, BlackBerry senior director of APAC region product management, described Priv as "our transition to the Android ecosystem." He said: "As we secure Android, over a period of time, we would not have two platforms, and may have only Android as a platform. But for now, we have BB10 and Android platforms for our smartphones."
The statement is interesting as it suggests BlackBerry would only be interested in moving entirely to Android if it could guarantee its customers the same level of security that BlackBerry 10 provides. The Priv already includes several built-in security features including automatic malware prevention and alerts when an app unexpectedly accesses sensitive hardware such as the microphone or camera.
BlackBerry wants to bring its reputation for strong security with it to Android, giving users the best of both worlds. Its existing corporate and government customers would still feel safe with a BlackBerry handset and general business and consumer users would again have reason to buy BlackBerry. The company has suffered from the lack of apps in its own store but can now give users access to the millions of Android apps.
Tay confirmed that the apps are a key reason for BlackBerry to switch to Android. "The future is really Android. We went for Android essentially for its app ecosystem," he said to the Economic Times. "In addition, all the enterprise solutions that we have been doing have been cross-platform for a long time now. So it's a natural progression towards Android."
The company seems to have decided on a new position and focus when selling smartphones. It is clearly still targeting its old audience of professional users but now aims to deliver two primary software features: apps and security.
BlackBerry has yet to get all its BB10 security features running on Android though, so the aging proprietary platform remains in use for now. The company is understood to be interested in getting government certification for its version of Android once it sees it as feature complete, ensuring the move away from BlackBerry 10 wouldn't result in the loss of its old authority buyers who have trusted the company for years.
BlackBerry has already confirmed there will be no new BlackBerry 10 phones launched this year. CEO John Chen has not ruled out a return to building new hardware for the OS in the future though, even though that now looks even less likely than before.
Earlier this month, Chen said he is "cautiously optimistic" about Android and Priv sales are "so far, so good." It is possible the handset's comparative success has led BlackBerry to adopt the new strategy that Tay outlined this week, putting Android at the core of the business.
Unfortunately, this plan seems to be largely at the expense of BlackBerry's oldest fans, many of whom like the BlackBerry 10 user experience. The company had previously pledged to keep developing BB10 but it now looks like the project is getting increasingly closer to being shelved entirely. BlackBerry is reorienting itself to catch up with the rest of the industry, something that inevitably leads to sacrifices along the way.
More about Blackberry, BB10, blackberry 10, Android, Operating system
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