Blackberry's Back, and Facebook Works Toward Suicide Prevention

BlackBerry Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins displays the new Blackberry 10 smartphones at the BlackBerry 10 launch event at Pier 36 in Manhattan on January 30, 2013.

The Italians have an affectionate greeting that loosely translates to "look who's come back from the dead." It comes to mind at first viewing of the new Blackberry 10 smart phone. The Canadian company that makes them is trying to reverse its downward spiral with a completely new operating system on some new iPhone-like devices. Marketplace Tech producer Ben Johnson was at the New York unveiling and got one to test. So, we opened the box, hit the power button and... It was missing a battery.

Fortunately, Ben paid attention during the demonstration. He says one of the most interesting changes is to BBM, Blackberry's messenger service.

"It's now got a very suped up version of this, so you can actually video chat, and, interestingly, you can share screens," he explains. "So you and I can video chat, and I can also press a button that will share my screen with your screen, and it allows me to surf the web -- I can scroll through photos, look at websites, look at Twitter, look at basically anything on my phone -- and it will share that screen with your screen."

Of course, none of these new features will matter if Blackberry can't catch up with the iPhone and the Droid and the expansive number of apps made for them.

"They made a big deal about showing everybody just how just how many apps they have," Ben says. There are currently around 70,000 apps available for Blackberry. While that may sound like a large number, it's dwarfed in comparison to the iPhone and Droid.


Can social media save lives? Facebook is working with an organization called SAVE to develop best practices for suicide prevention. In a statement the social media company said there is "a unique opportunity to provide the right resources to our users in distress, when and where they need them most." Tom LeNoble no longer works for Facebook, but In the mid-2000s he led Facebook's collaboration with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

"Back in the early days, people would either report to us that someone was in danger, or perhaps someone would reach out to us," says Tom LeNoble, a former Facebook employee, who led Facebook's collaboration with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the mid-2000s.

"I actually think social media is the tool of trying to get people -- especially in the demographics, back then, that were on Facebook. The younger you are, those are the tools and how you communicate."

Those communications could help flag the warning signs before it's too late. SAVE would like Facebook to study the postings of people who went on to harm themselves.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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