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BlackBerry: Internet of Things! Smartwatches! Anything but the sound of a flushing toilet

On-wrist BBM touted to help bowl-swirling biz

CES 2015 BlackBerry used this year's CES conference in Las Vegas to make the case for a comeback, touting not just two new smartphones but also moves into wearables and the internet of things (IoT).

On the wearables front, the beleaguered Canadian firm showed off a version of its BlackBerry Messenger client that runs on Android Wear smart watches.

"With BBM for Android Wear, we've taken some of the most common BBM activities out of your pocket and onto your wrist," BlackBerry marketeer Jesse Ariss said in a blog post on Wednesday. "If you often hear the BBM notification when your hands are full you're going to love this."

The wrist-mounted BBM client allows users to flip through recent messages, review and accept contact invites from other BBM users, and send canned responses with a few swipes. I will also integrate with Google Now to support sending messages via speech recognition.

BlackBerry also ballyhooed the Hbox, a new device based on its technologies that Nanthealth, the gadget's creator, describes as "a hub for the Internet of Medical Things."

The Hbox runs on QNX Neutrino, the realtime operating system that BlackBerry acquired, and which now accounts for more than 50 per cent of the RTOS market, according to BlackBerry Technology Solutions president Sandeep Chennakeshu.

BlackBerry is pushing QNX and the BlackBerry data network as core components of its IoT efforts. On Wednesday, the company said its OS is already running in more than 50 million in-car systems from over 40 automakers – and during the Tuesday morning CES keynote, Ford Motors demoed its new Sync 3 in-car system, which also runs QNX.

The onetime smartphone kingpin began turning up the volume on its IoT rumblings at the O'Reilly Solid conference last May, when it teased an ambitious IoT initiative dubbed "Project Ion."

Just when all of BlackBerry's hype will crystallize into something that customers can pay for is not clear, however. And indeed, the company has not offered a release data for the Android Wear BBM client, either.

On the other hand, BlackBerry did confirm US pricing for its two latest handsets for the first time. Both devices will be available on AT&T, with the BlackBerry Passport retailing for $199.99 with a two-year contract or $649.99 without, and the BlackBerry Classic priced at $49.99 with contract or $419.99 without.

As for when you can actually buy them, though, you'll have to settle for "the near future" for now, but you can sign up on AT&T's site to receive an email when they become available. ®

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