Following BlackBerry's Mobile World Congress Press Conference, I had the chance to sit down with the company's VP of Global Product Management, Francois Mahieu. Francois has a broad range of responsibilities at BlackBerry related to bringing new devices to market and we had a delightful conversation of which I'll be following up with more details. While I work on that longer interview piece, I first wanted to follow up with more information on the BlackBerry Q20 that was announced.
The key Q20 clarification that Francois iterated to me during our conversation is that the Q20 is not a one off, but that "Classic" can be considered as a category of devices within BlackBerry's hardware portfolio. Over the years BlackBerry has had different ways of looking at their product families, and the current philosophy according to Francois now splits BlackBerry phones into one of four main categories:
Affordable - Think phones like the newly-announced BlackBerry Z3. The goal here is to get the BlackBerry experience into the hands of as many people at as low a price point as possible.
Classic - With a physical keyboard and the "tool belt" making its return, this is where the new Q20 fits in. This is the iconic BlackBerry experience that so many longtime BlackBerry users still love. It may not be a huge growth opportunity, but this is giving those loyal BlackBerry users what they want. Note, don't take the re-introduction of the toolbelt on the Q20 to mean they won't make another Q10-like device without it.
High-End - During BlackBerry's press conference John Chen noted that BlackBerry is also working on some new, high-end smartphones that will be sought after not only by the BlackBerry core, but likely by the larger smartphone consumer base as well. While it was still too early for Francois to get into any details with us, judging by the grin on his face and sparkle in his eye as he talked about this, I can't help but believe BlackBerry has some really cool stuff coming our way. Great news for all us hardcore enthusiasts!
Prestige - Think expensive, like the Porsche Design BlackBerry P'9982. These are low volume, high-cost devices that help keep BlackBerry an aspirational brand.
With BlackBerry now working closely with Foxconn, BlackBerry's time to market on getting new devices into our hands should be greatly improved compared to BlackBerry of the past. The Z3 for example, will have a turnaround time under five months, which is pretty amazing considering the Foxconn relationship is new with both companies getting to learn how to work with each other during the process.
On the subject of high-end phones, I voiced my gripe that in the past it has often felt like BlackBerry's high-end phones always feel a little "too late" compared to some of other flagship devices hitting the market from other manufacturers on the hardware and specs front. Francois seemed pretty confident that we will be pleased with what we see as BlackBerry continues to forge ahead and that new high-end devices will be competitive.
All good things!