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Is this the first BlackBerry to run Android?

The next drip in an increasingly steady flow of leaks and rumours suggests that this is the first BlackBerry device to run full Android.

BlackBerry has had a tough time of it since the term ‘smartphone’ really took off. The Canadian company didn’t evolve at the same rate as the rest of the industry meaning that a once proud and powerful name has been reduced to a tainted brand struggling to stay relevant.

Recent reports from sources including Reuters suggested that alongside its existing BBOS 10 mobile operating system however, BlackBerry was considering introducing Android onto its upcoming hardware in an attempt to give its devices greater mass appeal. If this latest leaked shot is anything to go by, the BlackBerry Venice could be our first look at the newest direction for the company.

Following internal turmoil, job cuts and a refocus on business users, BlackBerry conceded that its platform wasn’t able to pull the numbers of users (or as active a developer community) as it needed. As a result the company got the ball rolling by adding support for Amazon’s Appstore, but adopting Android as an alternative platform is a far more significant step that may perhaps highlight a waning confidence in its own BBOS 10 ecosystem.

Word has it that the Venice is set to be a high-end slider, although in these renders it’s hard to distinguish where the sliding mechanism would reside. The Venice’s rectangular screen lends itself to Android apps far more readily than the company’s current flagship devices – the Classic and the Passport, both of which support square displays.

The biggest question mark over a company like BlackBerry adopting Android concerns security. Similarly to Samsung’s Knox initiative, BlackBerry will need to reassure potential customers, particularly business users, that if it plans on selling Android-based smartphones, they can still deliver a similar level of security and encryption to what’s currently offered up by BlackBerry OS.

The Venice is expected to launch as an exclusive to AT&T in the US, sometime in November with no word on release plans beyond that. Despite the left-field approach to broadening its horizons, we’re hoping that the introduction of a fully-fledged, Google services-supporting BlackBerry smartphone might go some ways to improving the company’s fortunes and ultimately help it return to a position of power.

Update 20/8/2015: @evleaks has just leaked another shot of the Venice, this time showing the exposed keyboard.

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