First BlackBerry Foxconn device will cost under $200

BlackBerry will likely have at least two smartphones hitting the market this year.

That’s according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who spoke to the media in a roundtable at the Consumer Electronics Show here Tuesday. The company is working on an all-touch device that he said will be priced under $200. He also teased another, and higher-end, smartphone that would include a traditional keyboard, which would be designed in-house.

The devices signal that BlackBerry isn’t quite ready to give up on selling smartphones to consumers, although it won’t  attempt to take on leading smartphones.

“We’re not retreating from the consumer business,” Chen said.

Still, Chen said the focus of the company for the next 18 months will be on the enterprise, which is likely where its more traditional keyboard smartphone will come into play. In addition to devices, he wants to shore up the enterprise service and mobile device management business, build upon the momentum of the BlackBerry Messenger service, and better utilize its QNX platform.

Chen also took the chance at the roundtable to dismiss the notion that BlackBerry is outsourcing its device business to Chinese manufacturer Foxconn. He called the new arrangement more of a partnership, and while Foxconn will deal with the mechanical design, BlackBerry will work on some of the hardware and will focus on the software. The phones will still carry the BlackBerry brand and be sold by its sales force.

Chen said Foxconn would be able to move faster than BlackBerry on design and manufacturing, and could bring about cost savings because Foxconn could get better terms for components. The phones would also use more standardized parts, and Foxconn would hold the inventory, eliminating one financial risk for BlackBerry.

“For emerging markets, BlackBerry will let Foxconn take a bigger role,” he said. “But we will do the next set of cool phones.”

Chen said he expects the company to be cash flow positive within the next four quarters and profitable by fiscal 2016.

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