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BlackBerry-branded tablet may be in the cards, CEO says

BlackBerry hints at revival of tablet

WATERLOO, Ont. — BlackBerry may be taking another swing at the tablet market, said CEO John Chen.

The move is part of the company's decision to expand its software licensing business after the former smartphone leader decided last year to stop making phones.

"What this might mean, and I make no promise, is that you may soon see a BlackBerry tablet," Chen said in a conference call with analysts after the company released its fourth-quarter and year-end numbers.

While the deal is not yet finalized, Chen said the licensing deal would be similar to existing arrangements in place with partners who can design, manufacture and sell BlackBerry-branded smartphones using the company's software in exchange for royalties per phone.

Chen said a partner would make the tablet, which would be an Android device and use BlackBerry's software. BlackBerry (TSX:BB) would receive royalties for each unit shipped.

BlackBerry previously designed a tablet in-house, the PlayBook in 2011. It failed to impress critics, with many giving it bad reviews even as Apple's iPad was winning over consumers.

PlayBook was intended to pair with BlackBerry's smartphones on the market at the time and provide a multi-screen environment, allowing users to access their email through the tablet.

But some of the technology required to link the two devices wasn't in place when the PlayBook started selling. Software updates later resolved those issues.

BlackBerry — at the time known as Research in Motion — later took a multimillion-dollar writedown because of the deep discounts used to get the tablet into consumers' hands.

A few years later, in April 2013, then BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said in an interview that he didn't think there would be a reason to have a tablet in five years.

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Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press

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