• Next Android-based phone’s release is ‘very, very imminent’
  • BlackBerry recently stopped manufacturing Classic phone

BlackBerry Ltd. won’t rule out another handset running its own operating system even as it pushes ahead with new Android-based smartphones and hardware sales keep slipping.

Last week, BlackBerry said it was discontinuing its keyboard-equipped Classic model, a move which set off a flurry of articles in the technology blogosphere suggesting that the company was abandoning the keyboard and its proprietary operating system, known as BB10. Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard said in an interview Monday that neither of those assertions are true.

“We are absolutely not backing away from BB10,” Beard said. “The company’s never said that we would not build another BB10 device.”

BlackBerry began making phones running Android’s operating system last year because developers had stopped building applications for BB10. Chief Executive Officer John Chen said at the time BlackBerry would keep making BB10 for its most security-conscious customers, but eventually BlackBerry’s version of Android software would be secure enough to replace the BB10 operating system if needed.

Chen has at least two new phones in the works and aims to make the unit profitable by September. Still, some analysts have said that only cutting phones completely would restore the market’s confidence in the company. The stock was down 28 percent to $6.66 this year at the end of trading in New York on Friday. Chen has said the Android-based Priv phone didn’t sell as well as he had hoped.

Investors should realize that BlackBerry’s Android software is just as unique to the company as BB10, Beard said. BlackBerry is pulling all the top features from BB10 and adding it to its Android system, creating a hybrid that has the best of both worlds, he said.

“The market doesn’t seem to understand. It talks about them as very binary,” Beard said. The company’s decisions will be driven by what its customers want, whether that’s pure BB10 phones or Android-based ones, he said. BlackBerry is still selling its Leap and Passport BB10 phones.

The announcement for BlackBerry’s next handset, which will be Android-based, is “very, very imminent,” Beard said, declining to provide more details about the device. The company has its annual Security Summit scheduled for July 19.

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