Will 2014 be a new beginning for BlackBerry or a continuation of the end? John Chen, executive chair and CEO of the handset maker, is hinting that the best is yet to come.
“It’s been easy for competitors to promote negative stories about BlackBerry, focusing on the business of the past,” he wrote in a letter that first appeared on CNBC.com. “But I’m not focused on who BlackBerry used to be -- I’m focused on what BlackBerry will be today and in the future.”
Chen insists BlackBerry is strong financially, technologically savvy and well-positioned for the future. In less than two months, Chen said he has engineered a new strategy to stabilize the company, return to its core strength in enterprise and security, and maximize efficiencies. And he reminded his readers that this isn’t the first time he’s held the reins at a tech company facing challenging circumstances. He believes BlackBerry can succeed.
The Journey Has Just Begun
“The team’s first priority was to focus on our core business drivers, so we had to move to a new operating unit structure: enterprise services, messaging, QNX embedded business and the devices business,” he wrote. “This structure will drive greater focus on services and software, establish a more efficient business model for the devices business, and support each unit’s transformation and growth objectives.”
When it comes to the enterprise, Chen said BlackBerry is still the leader. He warned not to be fooled by the competition’s “rhetoric” claiming to be more secure or having more experience than BlackBerry. With a global enterprise base exceeding 80,000, BlackBerry still has three times the number of customers compared to Good, AirWatch and MobileIron combined.
“Many in the regulated industries -- those with the most stringent security needs -- still depend solely on BlackBerry to secure their infrastructure,” he said. “For governments, BlackBerry cannot just be replaced -- we are the only MDM provider to obtain ‘Authority to Operate’ on U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) networks. This means the DoD is only allowed to use BlackBerry. Across the globe, seven out of seven of the G7 governments are also BlackBerry customers.”
Chen went on to point out the virtues of BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and the QNX operating system, then explained how the company has streamlined its devices business model and partnered with Foxconn to manufacture smartphones in Indonesia and other fast growing markets. BlackBerry is also focusing its design and hardware team on developing high-quality products at competitive prices.
“I believe BlackBerry has a clear lane ahead of us to create new trails as a nimbler, more agile competitor,” Chen concluded. “The journey has just begun.”
Slicing the Pie
Chen likely instilled confidence in many who read his letter. We asked Jeff Kagan, an independent technology industry analyst, for his take. He told us Blackberry is doing what it should have been done all along.
“They spent the last few years trying to remake themselves and be a real competitive force against the Apple iPhone and Google Android. Their BlackBerry 10 software and new handsets were a complete disaster,” Kagan said. “Now finally I am starting to hear and see BlackBerry make some sense. Their new CEO seems to have a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities they face. This could be helpful as they try to recover.”
Although Chen insists BlackBerry will never be a head-to-head competitor with Apple and Samsung, Kagan said BlackBerry can be a successful competitor in one slice of the pie. The market has many slices and BlackBerry can compete strongly in one of those slices.
“If they focus on the technology and on the marketing and they do this in the right slice of the pie, BlackBerry could stabilize and start to grow once again,” Kagan said. “BlackBerry has been beaten around quite a bit over the last few years. That does not mean they are dead however. They can have a come back. Will they is the question. Let's hope for the best.”