The past several years have been rather tough for BlackBerry (formerly known as RIM), specifically after the iOS and Android platforms have emerged as the most utilized mobile operating systems in the world. The fierce competition pushed the company into taking a lot of turns along the way, and over the years many things have changed at BlackBerry. The company has increased the number of full-touch screen smartphones in its portfolio, and last year it even adopted Android OS for its smartphones including the BlackBerry PRIV. Even more recently – as in just this week – BlackBerry announced that it will no longer manufacture first-party hardware, confirming that this responsibility will be outsourced to partners. Fortunately, although BlackBerry will stop developing hardware, the company's CEO John Chen recently ensured fans of the brand that the concept of physical QWERTY keyboards will not be abandoned.
One of the many characteristics that set BlackBerry apart from its competitors was the design of its handsets. In a mobile world where most smartphone makers create full-touch screen devices, BlackBerry remained faithful to its physical QWERTY keyboard design paradigm even at the point of crossing into the Android platform with the launch of the BlackBerry PRIV. However, given that the company will no longer manufacture its hardware, gadget enthusiasts have been wondering if this will also mean the end of the QWERTY keyboard. Fortunately, that doesn't seem the case, and in a recent interview with BNN, CEO John Chen has revealed that the company's signature keyboard design will "continue on". Apparently, BlackBerry intends to license the rights to third party manufacturers and will be "selective" in regards to which partners will be given the task of creating BlackBerry handsets equipped with physical QWERTY keyboards. As to when we might see new BlackBerry smartphones featuring physical keys, it appears that the CEO is looking at a timeframe of 2017 and beyond.
BlackBerry has already released an Android full-touch smartphones manufactured by a third party company – Alcatel – namely the BlackBerry DTEK50, and while BlackBerry will continue to outsource hardware manufacturing to its partners, the company will increase its focus on software development, security, and applications. At the end of the day, the QWERTY keyboard will hopefully live on and improve over time, even if the manufacturing part will be handled by companies other than BlackBerry.