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Here's our strategy with the new BlackBerry Classic

A corporate turnaround like the one underway at BlackBerry requires simultaneously moving forward in a rapidly changing market without losing sight of what makes the company's products and services work for customers.

BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen

Today BlackBerry is launching a new smartphone that captures that ethos and demonstrates that in the second year of our turnaround, BlackBerry is picking up momentum, building a future by curating the best parts of our recent past. We are keeping the commitments we made a year ago to turn around the company and defy skeptics who had written off BlackBerry.

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BlackBerry Classic is classic BlackBerry – with the world's best mobile keyboard, familiar shortcuts and a trackpad – while boasting cutting-edge productivity features such as BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Blend. Classic represents what some of our best and most loyal customers have told us they want from BlackBerry.

Although designed for those loyal users, BlackBerry Classic represents a break from the ubiquitous slabs of glass and I believe even casual users will quickly see how powerful and innovative it is. Yes, innovative, because while Classic looks and feels very familiar with classic BlackBerry lines and styling, inside is some of the most advanced hardware and software we've ever produced. Battery life is 50 percent longer than our legendary workhorse, the 9900, the 3.5-inch touchscreen is super sharp and super tough with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and the BlackBerry 10 web browser is among the fastest on any mobile device.

Classic is an integral piece of a broad portfolio of products and services that include all-touch smartphones, traditional QWERTY handsets and the groundbreaking BlackBerry Passport, not to mention our recently launched BES12 enterprise mobility-management solution and a 2015 roster that, I think, will further change how people think about BlackBerry.

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I've said before that innovation is not simply about blowing up things that work — that's called demolition. Innovation, on the other hand, involves taking a good thing and adapting it to create something that serves users even better.

That last element – fitting the needs of users – is crucial. How many times have you bought something that promises to be "new and improved" only to discover that it doesn't work as well as the old version? Frankly, I've heard that complaint from dedicated BlackBerry users, which guided us as we developed Classic and everything else we proudly put our name on. Innovating starts with listening.

It's a lesson for others as well. Innovation isn't just "disrupting" or making something cool for its own sake, it's also about filling a need – and sometimes very specific needs. One of the realities of rapidly developing technologies and fragmenting markets is that truly mass audiences are harder to serve profitably over the long term than the right niches.

While BlackBerry's distinctive devices remain the gold standard for security and the clear choice for governments, law enforcement and regulated industries, our expanding range of services deliver unmatched BlackBerry functionality across platforms. BlackBerry Bundles, for example, bring, enterprise-grade messaging with BBM Protected, mobile collaboration with BBM Meetings and secure document sharing with BlackBerry Blend.

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Tools like those keep businesses moving and growing. They are grounded in BlackBerry's past, but are the foundation of our future. BlackBerry's innovative spirit is stronger than ever and it is guided by a legacy of making our users more productive and protecting their data.

The BlackBerry Classic provides a good glimpse at where we are going as a company. We will go where our customers need us to be. Sometimes they will tell us explicitly, as they did with Classic; other times, we'll be helping them get to places they never knew they needed to be. That's the nature of innovation and it requires bucking convention to make things work better.

And that is classic BlackBerry.

John Chen is chief executive officer of BlackBerry and executive chair of the company's board of directors. Follow BlackBerry on Twitter at@BlackBerry4Biz.