BlackBerry’s researching a smartwatch, too

Future devices have to sell, but BlackBerry has a number of technologies up its sleeve

Move over Apple: Even BlackBerry is working on a smartwatch.

"We're doing internal research on different wearables," said John Sims, president of BlackBerry enterprise solutions, in an interview with several reporters at Super Mobility Week in Las Vegas.

The wearables research at BlackBerry includes smartwatches and even smart glasses. Sims oversees BlackBerry's BBM messenger service, and added, "I would love to have...BBM on a wearable," he said. "It's definitely an area of research for us."

Whether BlackBerry will ever sell a wearable device is unclear, but BlackBerry CEO John Chen has committed to continue selling smartphones and tablets as long future products make money. "There are still a lot of loyal BlackBerry users," Sims said, including many who still love a physical qwerty keyboard.

BlackBerry won't disclose the size of its installed base of users, but it accounted for less than 1% of all smartphone sales in the second quarter, according to IDG and other analyst firms. A big hardware focus going forward will be on emerging markets outside of North America and Europe; BlackBerry announced its Z3 smartphone primarily for that market in February.

BlackBerry is expected to launch a 4.5-in. display Passport smartphone later this month that features a keypad that doubles as a touchpad. Images of the device have surfaced, including on

BlackBerry recently signed Sandeep Chennakeshu, a former BlackBerry technology consultant, who now serves as president of technology solutions. Chennakeshu also appeared before the same group of reporters to describe several BlackBerry patented technologies aside from its wearables research.

One such technology measures frequencies and power used by cellular antennas and is licensed to semiconductor companies. But BlackBerry also designs efficient antennas for its own use. "We're well ahead on this technology," Chennakeshu said.

He also ticked off BlackBerry initiatives in elliptical curve cryptography to improve secure key efficiency, "which will be very useful for the Internet of Things."

More directly in IoT, BlackBerry is building an infrastructure that can collect data used in workplace applications such as truck fleet tracking, he said. BlackBerry also continues work with its QNX operating system and is "moving into new areas" that include infotainment in telematics used in vehicles.

Sims said BlackBerry is also committed to shipping the newest version of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server, BES 12, in November. "It will be best in class," he said.

Sims said work on a dual personality BlackBerry Balance technology for separating work and personal uses of smartphones on other OSes than BlackBerry is under way, as well. "That's an area you can expect to see from us in the future," he said.

One purpose of the dual personality on smartphones of all types will be to help IT shops track virtual identities so that businesses can bill services for work-related calls and data. A recent California court decision requires companies with workers in that state to pay for work-related calls made on their personal smartphones, something that BlackBerry hopes to address.

Dell on Monday announced a virtual smartphone that appears to provide similar capabilities.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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