Blackberry Reveals Mysterious Passport Phone/Tablet Hybrid

Blackberry Reveals Mysterious Passport Phone/Tablet Hybrid

Something new, or a new take on something old?

Yes, many of us have written off Blackberry, the tech firm previous known as RIM. (Some did so a long time ago, too.) And yes, the company's latest products, while nicely designed, haven't exactly set the world on fire. But this week, Blackberry finally revealed a mysterious new device called Passport that it had hinted about previously. And while it's neither phone nor mini-tablet, it is clearly a new way of thinking about both.

Here's a shot of the device next to some other coming Blackberry devices.

As you can see, the Passport is rectangular, almost square, but the device's screen is in fact square. That may not seem like a huge innovative leap per se, but just as the 3:2 screen on the Surface Pro 3 opens up possibilities that are not available on a standard 16:9 PC screen, so do does the Passport's. And even more so, since the widescreen displays on phones and mini-tablets are generally used in portrait mode.

"The Passport is like the IMAX of productivity, and you don't have to sacrifice screen real estate, vertically or horizontally," Blackberry explains. "It is the ideal device for reading e-books, viewing documents and browsing the web. No more worrying about portrait or landscape modes, and no; you aren't missing anything."

Blackberry spells out a few scenarios in which the Portrait's unique screen makes great sense, and they're all fairly obvious, with architects, mortgage brokers, healthcare professionals, real estate agents and even writers making great use of the screen.

That last bit is interesting, actually, as the Passport, like classic Blackberry devices, also comes with a hardware "navigable" keyboard. "When you are looking to type stories or notes, your virtual keyboard doesn't cover most of your screen," the firm notes.

There is so much we don't know, of course, so I wouldn't get too excited quite yet. For example, in addition to its aspect ratio, the Surface Pro 3's screen is also noted for being so high-resolution that Microsoft refers to it as "pixel free." We don't really know what's going on with the rest of the Passport's screen, let alone the rest of the device.

(Previous third party reports suggest the screen is 4.5 inches and runs at 1440 x 1440.)

Still, any attempt to break past the norm is appreciated. As Blackberry notes, the rectangle (and perhaps in particular the wide screen rectangle as seen in portrait mode) is both a de facto standard in smartphone design, and a limiter to innovation. I like that they're at least rethinking that.

"We want you to imagine the possibilities," Blackberry concludes. Which we'll have to, for now, since it won't launch until September. I suspect the company will reveal more details in the interim.

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