Updated: Correction on the BlackBerry Z3 launch date.
John Chen, the CEO of BlackBerry, is on a mission to turn around one of the most iconic companies in the wireless industry. Since the beginning of his reign over BlackBerry, Chen has continued with the CORE strategy established by the previous CEO in a strategic attempt to cut out the non-crucial costs from the company in hopes to revert to a profit-generating state. However, Chen has been doing a lot more than cutting costs, he has been packing his suitcases and traveling around the world.
In a detailed interview with The Record, Chen reveals his current plans of making stops at different cities around the globe for the purpose of meeting with high-profile business and government customers. This type of engagement is called “high-touch marketing” as Chen puts it. There are a total of 40 BlackBerry customers the CEO of BlackBerry and his team would like to speak with in regards to risk management, mobile-data security, identity management and identity security. His travels will conclude in New York for several interviews with analysts and interviewers. But before that, he will be boarding a flight to Indonesia next week to prepare for the official launch of the BlackBerry “Jakarta” Z3 which is expected to occur at the end of April. This highly-anticipated affordable handset is a ray of hope for BlackBerry and the CEO certainly wouldn’t want to miss such an important launch. The Z3 will be released in Thailand and India after the Indonesia launch.
“There are so many things that need to be fixed, kind of in parallel, otherwise it takes too long to fix everything sequentially”
As mentioned, Chen still has a lot on his plate that he needs to take care off but he is tackling multiple obstacles simultaneously. One big-ticket item is the CORE strategy which it seems to be coming to a closure soon. According to the interview, the last round of layoff is anticipated to happen by the end of May leaving the company with an employee count of approximately 7,000. Relying on a cost-cutting strategy simply does not magically turn a company around. It will delay the bleeding but at the end of the day, BlackBerry still needs to find new revenue streams and grow its existing ones.
“But I also realize that you can not ever cut yourself to glory”
What Chen is focusing on is returning the company to its roots for the next two years so that sufficient revenue can be generated to fund proposed turnaround strategies. One of which is opening up a limited production run of the legacy Bold smartphone. This is a response to corporate and government customers requesting for the return of the “utility” belt. Obviously, BlackBerry wishes to transition all existing legacy users to the new BlackBerry 10 platform but this is definitely proving to be a challenge.
Chen’s plan is to maintain customers who are satisfied with the legacy devices happy while the company pushes out a new BlackBerry 10 device that will mimic all the benefits of the Bold. The device destined to accomplish that goal is the BlackBerry Classic which is scheduled to be launched in November. The Classic will be sporting the BlackBerry 10 OS while also bringing in a new type of utility belt.
Chen makes it clear that although there will be new handsets being released, software and services will be king in the growth equation of the business. With that said, the handsets will stick around for at least two years but nobody will be able to predict the outcome beyond that.
“I hope it’s not confusing to others that all of a sudden, 90 days later, I shift gears. It is nothing to do with that. I mean software and services going forward are still going to be where the growth engine is going to come from, and messaging.”
Integrated connectivity and machine-to-machine is where BlackBerry will be heading towards. Even under Heins’ era, the focus has always been machine-to-machine interactions. It is up to Chen to bring this goal to fruition. He believes in addition to the automotive industry, QNX should tap into the medical field. In fact, Chen believes QNX will become a bigger part of the business than BBM in the next two to three years. Sales team are being re-established by Chen and they will be narrowing their focus on customers from the government, financial, defense, security and corporate sector with the medical sector in the near future.
“I won’t rule anything out, but since our aspirations for the long term are going to be machine-to-machine interactions, software has to be a really huge part going forward”
Good to see Chen is putting in a tremendous effort in making personal visits with important customers that are essential to the success of the business. Adding that personal touch, in this case a personal visit, is always a good gesture and it shows how much you value the business from your customers. With the BlackBerry Z3 launch on the horizon and QNX progressing at full-speed, BlackBerry is set to have an interesting year ahead.
Check out the full interview here.