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BlackBerry Leap Is Coming, But Focus Is Software

At Mobile World Congress, BlackBerry announced four smartphones, including the Leap, but the company's focus is really on its enterprise software portfolio.
Samsung Galaxy S6: Fast And Fashionable
Samsung Galaxy S6: Fast And Fashionable
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BARCELONA – At the Mobile World Congress show Tuesday, BlackBerry announced the Leap, a new smartphone slated to go on sale later this year. BlackBerry said three more handsets are on deck, as is revised mobile device management software.

While BlackBerry's turnaround efforts are moving forward at full speed, it's debatable whether or not it's simply too late for the beleaguered smartphone maker to remake itself, especially with a new focus on device management software.

First up is the Leap, an all-touch smartphone that strongly resembles the 2013-era Z10.

The specs define it as a mid-range smartphone. It has a 5-inch, 720p HD touch screen and is powered by an older 1.5 GHz Qualcomm S4 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It has an 8-megapixel main camera that can capture full HD video, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera for those selfies. BlackBerry claims the 2,800mAh battery delivers 25 hours of continuous use. Connectivity options run the norm. It'll support LTE in most markets and also includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC, and WiFi.

The Leap runs BlackBerry 10.3.1. It offers all the features expected of a modern BlackBerry, which means the Hub for managing communications and BBM for those business-related chats. Perhaps most importantly, the phone will include the Amazon Appstore and can run the Android apps contained therein. BlackBerry claims there are tens of thousands of Android apps that will run on its hardware. T

The Leap will go on sale, initially in Europe, for about $275.

At a press event in Barcelona March 3 BlackBerry provided a peek at its device roadmap for the remainder of the year. One of its forthcoming smartphones will have a large, dual-curved display and slide-out keyboard. Another will be a more typical device similar in design to the Q10. BlackBerry is working on yet another Porsche Design edition, as well.

BlackBerry also made major improvements to the Google Android and Apple iOS versions of its BBM application this week. Each will be able to function without ads -- as long as you're willing to pay $0.99 per month. Android and iPhone owners can choose to create a custom PIN for an additional $1.99 per month. The app now supports photos within group chats on these platforms, too. For the Android version of BBM, BlackBerry delivered on its promise to add support for Android Wear notifications. They'll pop up on user's wrists. Last, the iOS version of BBM now supports TouchID, which means owners can lock their BBM chats with a fingerprint.

On the mobile device management side of the story, BlackBerry said its BES12 Cloud solution will let IT manage iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry 10 smartphones and tablets. It can also handle a range of Samsung KNOX and Android for Work smartphones and tablets.

[Read about Net Neutrality for mobile apps.]

Speaking of Samsung, Samsung's own KNOX platform has adopted several of BlackBerry's MDM tools, including WorkLife and SecuSUITE. The WorkLife service will let IT partition and separate personal from work data stored on Samsung smartphones. IT will have full control over the work data, but no control over the owner's data. This is ideal for BYOD programs. The SecuSUITE offers highly secure core communications. It can encrypt phone calls and SMS messages for conversations that absolutely must be protected.

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen is leading the charge and clearly wants the company to succeed. The company is serious about competing in the enterprise space, especially now that IT can use BES to manage the world's biggest mobile platforms. It's hard see BlackBerry winning back users with devices such as the Leap, Classic, and Passport, however.

What do you think? Is BlackBerry headed in the right direction? Does it have a chance? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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