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BlackBerry says 'collaboration' with Alicia Keys will end this month

TORONTO - BlackBerry is parting ways with Alicia Keys after a year-long collaboration between the singer and the smartphone maker.

The Waterloo, Ont.,-based company says Keys will be leaving her role as its global creative director on Jan. 30.

Her involvement with the company drew criticism from some outsiders who said that despite the decidedly corporate title, Keys was little more than a celebrity brought in to help promote its BlackBerry 10 smartphones.

BlackBerry (TSX:BB) has insisted that Keys had a more direct involvement in its operations, highlighting her work on a four-year scholarship program that encouraged young women to enter specific science and technology fields.

"We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual," the company said in an emailed statement.

The company brought Keys onto the team last January at the splashy New York launch of its BlackBerry 10 smartphone line, which was supposed to mark a new beginning for the well-known brand.

She appeared at numerous corporate events throughout the year and in some of the company's promotional material.

Keys also took the BlackBerry device launch to the social media world by posting Twitter updates about the products and incorporating the smartphone into a live performance during her most recent concert tour.

However, there were some fumbles along the way.

Shortly after the partnership began, a message was posted on Keys' Twitter account from an iPhone, bringing her BlackBerry loyalty into question on social media. The singer said her account had been hacked.

In recent months, BlackBerry has undergone major changes supervised by new leader John Chen who hopes to turn around the company's struggling operations.

His goal is to focus primarily on BlackBerry's loyal enterprise business users rather than chase a fickle consumer base that has largely turned to iPhones and mobile devices using the Android operating system.

BlackBerry shares rose 31 cents to $8.21 Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.


For more BlackBerry coverage, follow David Friend on Twitter.

The Canadian Press

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