When your phone business has failed to fire and your last attempt at a tablet was a flop, there’s little to lose from moving in a radical direction.
That’s what BlackBerry has done with Passport, which the company says is “built for productivity”.
I’m not convinced about that claim.
Passport is quite unlike anything else on the market. It has a square 4.5 inch display, roughly the size and shape of two smartphones sitting side-by-side. And it has the BlackBerry signature of a hardware keyboard.
Ten years ago hardware keyboards looked like a great idea. Today they look, well. like 2004.
BlackBerry careful avoids describing Passport as a phone, tablet or, heaven forbid, phablet.
So what is it?
Well, BlackBerry’s blog post talks about the optimal number of characters across a column of text. There’s some sense in that idea, it’s the kind of thing I’d spend nights thinking about when I ran print newspapers or magazines.
Apparently this makes the Passport ideal for reading ebooks and text heavy web pages. You know what? Laptops, iPads and Kindles are all good at that task.
Let’s give BlackBerry credit for originality and trying something truly fresh. It’s more than anyone else has managed since the first iPad appeared.
And full marks for bravery.
There’s a possibility Passport could fill a new niche or meet some previously unmet need. Which is more than can be said for a lot of the me-too kit coming out of companies at the moment.