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BlackBerry may be looking to exit the smartphone game entirely

UPDATE 17:30 10 April: ITProPortal has been contacted by BlackBerry, who made us aware of a clarification John Chen has made to the effect that BlackBerry is not considering leaving the smartphone arena, and that his comments were taken out of context by Reuters.

Chen said: "I want to assure you that I have no intention of selling off or abandoning this business any time soon.‎ I know you still love your BlackBerry devices. I love them too and I know they created the foundation of this company. Our focus today is on finding a way to make this business profitable."

He added: "We will do everything in our power to continue to rebuild this business and deliver devices with the iconic keyboard and other features that you have come to expect from this brand.‎.. We have not given up and we are not leaving the Devices business."

(The original story follows below).

BlackBerry has not been doing well for some time now, that's no secret, and neither is the fact that the company has been looking more towards software and services, and less at hardware, when it comes to the quest to turn a profit.

However, it seems that BlackBerry might be on the verge of leaving the handset game entirely, according to a Reuters interview with the company's CEO.

Chief exec John Chen said: "If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business." Interestingly, he also admitted that the timeframe for a decision on a sharp exit was a short one – and while he obviously refused to be pinned down to any specific details, he did say that the company could turn a profit on 10 million handsets shipped per year.

Blackberry is still pushing ahead with new phone models right now, and trying different angles too, bringing back a classic BB design in the form of the Q20, and targeting budget phones at emerging markets, with the Z3 about to pop up in Indonesia.

Chen stressed that BlackBerry was looking to develop more outside the hardware sphere, though, and in particular hunting to acquire network security outfits to strengthen its offerings on this front, and hopefully hooking up with firms requiring secure communications in the likes of the legal and financial sectors.

Chen said: "We are building an engineering team on the service side that is focused on security. We are building an engineering team on the device side that is focused on security. We will do some partnerships and we will probably, potentially do an M&A on security."

Security, then, is definitely the watchword – and capitalisation on the concerns about the NSA and surveillance in general which have been thrown up in the wake of the Snowden revelations.

BlackBerry's latest figures for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014 showed a precipitous 64 per cent drop in revenue, with the firm pulling in $976 million (£582 million), down from $2.7 billion (£1.61 billion) in the previous year. 56 per cent of that revenue was services, with 37 per cent represented by hardware, and 7 per cent software and other miscellany.