Update: February 18th: OnwardMobility officially announces it's shutting down
While no public acknowledgement has been made by BlackBerry or OnwardMobility yet (and it's hard to say if we'll ever see a formal announcement though I hope we do as they really owe the community one), word is now getting out that OnwardMobility's initiative to bring a 5G BlackBerry to market is no more.
OnwardMobility appeared to be very much alive last week when I spoke with them, relaying an upbeat outlook even though it was clear they would no longer be able to bring their keyboard-touting phone to market under the BlackBerry brand. They even offered me up an NDA after the call so they could show me more of their plans. Though the former BlackBerry fanboy in me wanted to see what they were working on -- rumor was the new phone would take a BlackBerry-esque approach more like a new and improved PRIV2 vs a KEY3 -- I sent an email this weekend to OnwardMobility letting them know I was declining to sign their NDA.
Just a few days later and that upbeat outlook has taken a nosedive into the ground where it will apparently remain six feet under with multiple sources confirming to me that OnwardMobility and their BlackBerry 5G keyboard phone dream are dead.
From my experience, once news like this surfaces typically more information comes to life from various places during the post-mortem and I have no doubt the blame game will point to numerous difficulties and challenges. Given the suddeness of this news and the drastic turn from just a week ago, I can't help but assume something changed in BlackBerry's willingness to support OnwardMobility's efforts. With BlackBerry selling off a big chunk of its patent portfolio, it's clear they are distancing themselves from phones, and this may have been the next step in BlackBerry CEO John Chen's plans to further them down that path.
OnwardMobility has taken its share of criticism from this community over the past 12+ months. Some of it was definitely deserved - as time went by without updates the new 5G BlackBerry Phone began to feel more like vaporware than a product we'd be able to get our thumbs typing on anytime soon. While I do believe the team at OnwardMobility set out with good intentions and put in some real effort to make things happen (I don't think you would go through the effort and put your names on the line with a plan to fail), they obviously were not able to execute.
For the BlackBerry/keyboard-loving community it just sucks that so many people excited about this new phone were dragged along for so long and never even got a glimpse of what will never now be.