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BlackBerry placing its bets on physical keyboards


It may not be what investors want to hear, but BlackBerry diehards and purists will applaud CEO John Chen’s recent commitment to the physical smartphone keyboard – the one key differentiator the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone manufacturer has left in the market.

During this week’s Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, Chen told Bloomberg TV’s Jon Erlichman that future BlackBerry models will “predominately” feature physical keyboards – such as the Q10 – rather than be touch-only models such as the Z10 and Z30.

“I personally love the keyboards,” Chen told Bloomberg.

BlackBerry announced a major restructuring under former CEO Thorsten Heins that will see the vendor leave the consumer face to return to its enterprise-focused roots, and produce fewer devices to focus on a number of key smartphone models. Chen – officially still intended to be a short-term CEO – has taken a number of restructuring steps of his own, including a five-year manufacturing deal with Foxconn Technology Group to lower manufacturing costs and better manage inventory.

BlackBerry this week also parted ways with celebrity creative director Alicia Keys, hired Ron Louks to run its devices business, and announced plans to invest in a new security innovation centre in the Washington, D.C. area.

“We are committed to working with government and industry experts to solve some of the biggest challenges we face in securing mobile communication. The Washington, D.C.-based security innovation center will be focused on creating lasting partnerships that will encourage ongoing dialogue aimed at making better products and policy,” said Chen during a speech at the government breakout of CES.