BlackBerry Gets a Boost from Google’s Platform

Can this relationship last given the strategic implications that it entails?

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One of the shortcuts that BlackBerry (TSX:BB) has been using to grow its app count for years has been ported Google Android apps. It all started when the company announced that it would support ported Android apps on its PlayBook in 2011.

By embracing Android apps within BlackBerry’s platform, it makes it easier for developers to bring their content over with minimal effort. The new BlackBerry 10 platform currently includes an Android emulator, but the underlying Android version is 2.3 Gingerbread, which was originally released in 2010.

In February, BlackBerry said it would be upgrading its Android runtime to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and subsequently decided to go all the way up to the current 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The company has now released the first software developer kit, or SDK, that includes support for Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and is encouraging developers to start testing their apps on the platform.

The update will add a slew of new features to the emulator, including things like hardware acceleration, among others. This is the first real tangible step toward getting Jelly Bean apps on BlackBerry 10, and could help boost BlackBerry’s app count further, albeit with ported apps.

Worth a swing

BlackBerry’s Android strategy is a risky bet. Embracing Android too deeply runs the risk of the entire platform becoming little more than a wrapper for Android apps, but the move serves as a stepping stone for developers. They can quickly port their apps to test the waters, and if all goes swimmingly, they can then spend additional time and resources to go native for better performance. The company’s BlackBerry World app store is now up to 120,000 total apps, including native and ported titles.

To BlackBerry’s credit, the company is making progress with getting more native content. BlackBerry would prefer all apps to be native, but that’s not entirely within its control. Only if a sufficient fraction of apps become native could BlackBerry even consider ditching Android support. How long can BlackBerry piggyback on Google?

Foolish Takeaway

Blackberry is a polarizing stock and until more time passes with its new product line-up in the market, it’s impossible to know with any degree of certainty what the future might hold for this company.

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The original version of this post, authored by Evan Niu, appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Evan Niu does not own shares of any company mentioned.  The Motley Fool owns shares of Google.      

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium service or advisor. We’re Motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer, so we sometimes publish articles that may not be in line with recommendations, rankings or other content.

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