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BlackBerry Soars -- This Is Not a Flashback


An extremely unfashionable technology company grabs attention with an upside surprise and a flurry of announcements.

You might expect a pre-product-release tease from BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) to drop with a very soft thud but, at least for now, investors and technology enthusiasts are again paying attention to the once-mighty Canadian mobile phone maker.

Everybody loves a comeback story, and if this isn't one yet, it at least looks like it could turn into one down the road.

Anywhere looks like up from here. BlackBerry's global market share had dropped to a pitiful 1.9% by the end of 2013, and has probably since slid below 1%.

But the company's latest quarterly results, released Thursday, were a upside surprise. It even made a tiny profit of about $23 million, compared to a $423 million loss in the prior quarter. Operating expenses were down 40% from the same period a year earlier. CEO John Chen has said he expects BlackBerry to return to profitability sometime next year.

On the job only since last November, Chen's strategy has been to focus on corporate and government clients, who once preferred BlackBerry because of the superior security of its messaging software and the reliability of its network.

That said, BlackBerry's latest announcements reach out to other segments, too. 

First, about that pre-release tease: Two new models will be officially announced in September. Nobody can accuse BlackBerry of being a copycat. Both will have a touchscreen but also will be equipped with a physical keyboard.
The BlackBerry Classic presumably is aimed at a consumer audience since, according to a report in TechCrunch, the company is in talks with rap star Drake to promote the device. Drake reportedly is an actual BlackBerry user, not to mention a Canadian.

The BlackBerry Passport is a giant folding phablet, designed for the enterprise market, or at least for users with some serious texting to do.
Meanwhile, the company is rolling out an affordable device for consumers in emerging markets.

The model was introduced initially in Indonesia, a huge market with a lingering loyalty to the BlackBerry name. This week, it will be introduced in India, where, according to a reviewer for IndianExpress, it has the potential to bring BlackBerry back to the forefront.

In addition, the company announced last week that all of its devices will soon have access to the Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) AppStore, a quick fix for the serious shortage of mobile apps available to BlackBerry users. The agreement means another 240,000 new choices added to its own 130,000.

(If that sounds like plenty of apps, keep in mind that the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) Store and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play carry a million each.)

Under the radar, BlackBerry has other strengths that have little to do with  device sales. Such as BBM, the BlackBerry Messenger chat service that is available across platforms, and that has an estimated 85 million active monthly users. Again capitalizing on its reputation for better security, the company is about to introduce an expanded and ultra-secure version for business users, called eBBM.
In the connected car market, its QNX12 has turned into a strong competitor. Earlier this year, it won an agreement with Ford (NYSE:F) at the expense of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), the automaker's previous provider of an on-board infotainment platform.

The company also is making all the right noises about its potential as a player in cloud services and as a platform for the "Internet of Things," to name two of the biggest game-changing trends that have emerged since the days when BlackBerry ruled.
But that's further down the road. For now, BlackBerry has to prove that it can keep moving in the right direction for more than one quarter.
The stock rose nearly 7% on Friday, closing the week at $10.51.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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