BlackBerry could lay off 40% of staff, report says

BlackBerry announces the release of its newest smartphone, the Z30, which is advertised as the company's biggest, fastest and most advanced model, on the same day a Wall Street Journal report says it may lay off as many as 40 per cent of its staff.

Company also set to release BBM Messenger to Apple and Android devices

The BlackBerry Z30 runs the BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.2 and is larger than the Z10, with a 5-inch (12.7-cm) touch screen. (BlackBerry )

Canadian tech company BlackBerry is considering a cut of up to 40 per cent of its workforce by year end, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

"People familiar with the matter" confirmed the news that employees, in every department, could face layoffs, the report says.

BlackBerry spokesperson refused to comment on the report, calling it "rumours and speculation."

BlackBerry had 12,700 employees as of this March, down from 17,000 two years ago. ​The smartphone maker has watched its market share shrink as Apple and Samsung products became popular and announced it was seeking a buyer earlier this year.

The news comes as the company announced a new smartphone model to its lineup, the BlackBerryZ30. ​

"It's our biggest, largest, most advanced smartphone to date on the BlackBerry 10 platform," said Vivek Bhardwaj, head of software portfolios at BlackBerry. 

The phone runs the latest version of the BlackBerry 10 operating system, BlackBerry 10.2, which includes many feature updates, including a larger display and the longest-running battery the company has ever offered on its phones

"Some of the latest features that come with that are features like the BlackBerry Priority Hub, so you're able to actually organize your messages now by intelligently recognizing who the most important people are, the most important conversations," said Bhardwaj. 

Bhardwaj also highlighted changes to the BlackBerry Messenger service, allowing users to send messages to each other within the BBM network.

"With the Z30 you're actually able to retrieve BBM messages from anywhere within the phone. So you can be playing a game, you could be browsing the internet, or just looking through applications or even reading a book. So as soon as someone sends you a BBM message, it will actually appear on the top of the screen. You're able to dismiss it or even read and reply right to that message within that app." 

The company also announced Wednesday it will be offering BBM to Android and Apple devices this coming weekend as a free download. It will be available on Google Play on September 21 and on Apple's App Store on September 22.

The new screen puts the Z30 at the same size as the Samsung Galaxy S4, which also features a five-inch (12.7-cm) display.

The Z30's battery, at 2880 maH, is one of the largest capacity batteries available on a smartphone. The company claims the battery can provide up to 25 hours of use. 

The Z30 will be available in stores in the U.K. and the Middle East starting next week. A Canadian release date is expected to be announced in the next coming weeks. 

Analyst: New phone won't save company

Jefferies managing director Peter Misek said the Z30 will likely do little to turn around the company's fortunes.

"It's an attempt by them to stabilize their business in their core markets where they're very strong, places like Malaysia," he said.

"In the United States and the rest of the developed world, this is probably going to have little to no impact."

Misek said the timing of the phone's entry to the market is in line with expectations, but other aspects of the Z30's launch concern him.

"It's interesting and worrying to note that they're not launching this in the United States, or having an event in the United States," he said.

"They're really focusing on where they think they still have strength."


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