Blackberry returns to roots with Classic model
Blackberry released its new Passport phone in September to re-establish some long-lost relevancy in the mobile sector. Just a few months later, the company is consolidating its stance with the launch of the Blackberry Classic.
Despite some advanced features like touchscreen control and an eight megapixel camera, the phone and its reinstated “qwerty” keyboard mark a return to the company’s roots. Blackberry is appealing to those once loyal business and enterprise customers who never fully jumped on the touch screen typing bandwagon.
“This is more about avoiding more people leaving than necessarily winning many over,” Kantar Worldpanel analyst Carolina Milanesi told the BBC.
With the Waterloo, Ontario-headquartered firm’s posted annual loss of $5.9 billion in March, Blackberry has indisputably fallen from the pedestal it once sat upon. Just in 2009, the company commanded nearly 50% of the smartphone market, according to the NBC. and has since been caught and eclipsed by rival phone makers like Apple and Samsung.
Still, via cost-cutting and higher profit margins, the company posted a profit of $23 million for the three months to the end of March 2014. Combined with the early success of the passport, the firm is attempting a comeback in mobile.
The company revealed the Classic model at a launch event held in New York City’s Financial District on Wednesday.
“A lot of people say the Classic is aiming for loyal customers. And that is true,” said CEO John Chen at the event. But it will take a combination of appeasing the loyal and attracting the new for Blackberry to make it back as a big player on the mobile stage.
Sony pulls The Interview
Sony Pictures continues to deal with the fallout from its hacking nightmare as it officially pulled the release of new movie The Interview following further threats.
The same hacker group, self-proclaimed “Guardians of Peace,” that infiltrated Sony’s systems, compromised sensitive information and issued threats to the company’s employees a few weeks ago, has struck again with a new warning: “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time,” a message from the group said on Tuesday, according to the BBC.
The threats are directed towards any theatres that air The Interview, a Seth Rogen-James Franco comedy centred around a plot to assassinate the North Korean leader. The fear has prompted movie chains like AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment to cancel showings of the film. Sony responded by pulling the film’s release entirely.
“In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film The Interview, we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release,” Sony said in a statement on Wednesday, according to USA TODAY. “We respect and understand our partners’ decision and, of course, completely share their paramount interest in the safety of employees and theater-goers.”
Hollywood has urged Sony to release the film and protect America’s right to free speech. Sony itself stands to lose tens of millions of dollars, with production costs upward of $44 million, according to USA TODAY.
The FBI has declared North Korea responsible for the attacks and President Obama has condemned the threats, and expressed his disappointment at Sony’s decision to pull the movie. The attack reportedly occurred outside of North Korea, but it was state-sponsored.
The U.S. is now weighing its retaliation options, which could involve cyber retaliation or financial sanctions, according to the Huffington Post.
Apple stops sales in Russia amidst falling ruble
Apple has halted sales in Russia due to the volatility of its currency, the ruble.
A few factors have contributed to the currency’s devaluation, which is in turn destabilizing the Russian economy. The drop in the price of oil has crippled the country’s energy sector, as have western economic sanctions. A lack of confidence from wealthy Russian investors in the country’s future has also hurt the ruble.
In the last year, the ruble has plunged over 50% on the U.S. dollar, prompting Apple to raise prices of its products in its Russian online store. The move wasn’t enough to combat the falling currency, and now the tech giant is halting sales entirely in the country.
“Due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the ruble, our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing. We apologize to customers for any inconvenience,” Apple said in a statement.
Game maker Valve has also placed limits on its online store in Russia, using “region-locks” aimed to prevent people from outside the country from buying the games for much cheaper with the deflated ruble.
Russian authorities are attempting to stem the decline of the ruble – accounting rules have been eased to curb banks’ need for dollars, according to Bloomberg. But the exodus of companies from the Russian market won’t be limited to just Apple and Valve, unless the government can prevent what some worry will be a full scale financial crisis in Russia.
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