Could BlackBerry be back?

Once written off as a dinosaur, a permanent also-ran in the mobile device wars, BlackBerry has come roaring back. The secret weapon in this resurgence has been the Priv, the company’s first Android smartphone.

Brand new, the Priv is already revitalizing the BlackBerry brand … and doing wonders for investors. After it was announced both Walmart and Best Buy sold out of Privs almost immediately, BlackBerry stock jumped 7 points. While neither big box store released sales figures, “all of them” is almost always a good sign.

Better still, both companies restocked their shelves, and Privs are, once again, flying out the door. In fact, the devices are selling so fast, even BlackBerry seems a bit surprised – though, of course, they would never say so.

The shock is not terribly surprising. After the iPhone revolution and the eventual Android counterpunch, the original smartphone brand suffered a market-wide fall. After reigning supreme in the market for years, suddenly, nobody wanted a “Crackberry.”

For the next several years, the brand languished in the cellar, forgotten as Apple vied with Android for wireless supremacy. BlackBerry handsets sold, but not well, and in nothing like the numbers of the top in the sector.

Year after year, BlackBerry’s percentage of the market dissipated until they held onto only the barest sliver, a toenail hold, if that. Then, BLAM, out of nowhere, the Priv hit the scene.

No doubt, much of the appeal has to do with the OS. Like nearly every major contender to the iPhone, the Priv runs the Android OS. That means users get a ton of apps, with more open source applications hitting the market every day. Of course, being a BlackBerry, the Priv still comes with the slide-out keyboard most other handsets have long abandoned.

The move to a phone with an Android OS signals just how desperate BlackBerry was to be relevant, much less competitive, in the market. It was a step their leadership swore they would never take. Yet, here they are. And not a moment too soon. Without this win, BlackBerry may have been pushed out of the smartphone market for good. Now, they may just have a shot at coming back.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations. 5WPR is based in New York City, with offices in Denver and Los Angeles.