How Launching the Priv Will Redefine BlackBerry Ltd.

As BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) prepares to launch the Android-powered Priv, focus is once again turning to the beleaguered handset division. Can it deliver what the market wants?

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BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) has been battling for survival for several years now. The naysayers may have been largely silenced since John Chen took the helm of the company and refocused efforts on enterprise and software, but there is still a weak link in the company—devices.

That link appears to have finally found its niche as well, with the company preparing to release the Priv—an Android-powered BlackBerry, that offers a physical keyboard, large touchscreen, and current, if not high end, internal components.

More importantly, the Priv represents the first union of BlackBerry hardware, security, and software with the open market that Android provides.

The future of the handset division

Chen hasn’t been coy about what the future lies for the company’s handset division beyond the upcoming Priv. He had previously hinted about exiting the handset business if it could not be made profitable within a year.

Chen also set a high target for that handset division—five million phones per year. While the company churned out several million every quarter a few years ago, the most recent quarter saw a paltry 800,000 devices being moved.

While the revenue from declining hardware sales is slowly being replaced by revenue from software and services, the five million mark is still a fair ways off from becoming attainable—particularly from a single device launch that caters to a small niche of users.

What the market wants in a smartphone

Consumers, for the most part, want powerful, touchscreen slabs, whereas until now BlackBerry has provided underpowered, physical keyboard devices that are ultra-secure. Looking at the last few devices that BlackBerry has released, the company has delivered on one or the other of these needs to the market, but it has been unable to put both in the same device.

The Priv comes closest to meeting both needs, and, more importantly, the device embodies why consumers and investors alike should take note of what is happening. A BlackBerry-secured Android device is seen as a mythical union by the smartphone industry, and with all signs pointing to a launch before the end of the year, the next quarters should prove very telling on the future of the handset division as well as the company’s focus going forward.

In my opinion BlackBerry is significantly undervalued at the current price of under $10, and merits a small position in any portfolio. This seems to be the consensus views of many, as additional details relating to the device were revealed this week, and the market responded positively, with the stock rising by over 15%.

Should the Priv sell as well as it is expected to, investors and consumers alike will be reaping the rewards, and we may see more devices from BlackBerry.

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.

Fool contributor Demetris Afxentiou has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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