BlackBerry CEO: We have a lot of problems, but we're not dead

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has always had a fairly honest approach to discussing the company at which he took over the job last year. True to form, his most recent comments haven't exactly sugar-coated the state of BlackBerry, but he insists that we shouldn't be writing any eulogies for its decease just yet.

With industry analysts IDC predicting that BlackBerry shipments will fall by over 50% this year, with its global share of the smartphone market dropping to just 0.8% by the end of 2014, things aren't looking terribly rosy at the Canadian company. That's an uncomfortable reality to face, and it seems to be one that Chen fully appreciates.

As Re/Code reports, BlackBerry's CEO said at the ongoing Code Conference that he sees significant value for shareholders in continuing to produce its own hardware, but he admitted that he "isn't emotionally tied" to that side of the business. Could the company ditch its devices business then, as some have predicted? He denied any plans to do so back in April, but it seems inevitable that that decision will ultimately come down to harsh business realities i.e. selling BlackBerry handsets - a task that it is finding increasingly challenging.

One problem that the company faces (and a problem that its rival Microsoft continues to face with Windows Phone, too) is that of its software ecosystem. Customers expect to find the same apps that are available on rival platforms, and fulfilling that expectation requires a rich and diverse developer community to build that software. Chen admitted that BlackBerry is no longer in a position to compete effectively with its rivals for developer mindshare. 

With fewer developers creating apps for the platform, that leaves the company increasingly reliant on Android to flesh out its software ecosystem. BlackBerry 10 allows Android apps to run on devices through an emulator, currently based on the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean runtime. However, while the overwhelming majority of these apps can run on BB10 unaltered, they must be adapted if developers want to hook into OS-specific features, like the BlackBerry Hub.

Could BlackBerry 10 offer more extensive Android support in the future, as a possible solution to its software problem? Chen wouldn't commit to that, but he didn't rule it out either. Back in February, BlackBerry's Chris Smith told PCMag that the company might establish closer relationships with Android app stores, so a greater reliance on Android to fill in the app-gaps on its own platform certainly seems possible. 

One of Chen's more candid - and rather astonishing - comments was his admission that he is perhaps not the best person to be running the company. Nilay Patel from Vox tweeted what Chen said: 

Jessica Guynn from The Huffington Post added a further quote from Chen regarding his position: 

There's honest, and there's downright insanely honest, and Chen's comments on that front were perhaps verging on the latter, given the depth of BlackBerry's woes. But regardless of how Chen ended up in the top job at the company, he's there now, for better or worse, and he believes that BlackBerry still has some life left in it. "We have a lot of problems," he said, "but [we're] not dead." It's not the first time we've heard that, of course - an unhappy indicator of the company's continuing struggles.

While its difficulties in the handset business continue, Chen said that there is still considerable scope to leverage the company's expertise in the enterprise space, and to build on its reputation for security. The nascent Internet of Things market is another area in which BlackBerry hopes that it can compete effectively, along with embedded systems such as those used in the automotive industry. 

The company may be down, but as far as Chen is concerned, it's not out: "I am not, by any shape of the imagination... giving up yet," he said. But will he be able to cure BlackBerry of its ills? Chen certainly thinks so: "I am quite confident that we'll be able to save the patient." 

Of course, it's one thing to save the patient, and another to restore the patient back to good health. That, unfortunately, is a far greater challenge.

Source Re/Code 1 / 2 | top image via CNN Mexico

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Samsung and Kirkwood partner for new S5, Gear 2, and Gear Fit accessories

Next Story

TrueCrypt is saying it's insecure, recommends using BitLocker

25 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

It's a shame, because BB10 is GREAT! I am not a heavy apps user but I know many others are. And they do need better app support. Personally, I would not use Android or iOS as long as BB10 is around.

Im forever seeing posts on sale sights / facebook groups with people asking to swap blackberry's for other phones. or swapping other phones and requesting no blackberry. On the street they are a joke.

They are dead, as an IT admin NO ONE has confidence in them and everyone in the industry on an enterprise level is running away from their products cause we can't be left with alot of users on an unsupported platform when they go under.

Everyone is moving towards BYOD active sync devices and BB offers nothing of value anymore to the enterprise world.

They are toast, and of course the consumer world doesn't even know they exist anymore.

Edited by swanlee, May 29 2014, 12:39pm :

swanlee said,
They are dead, as an IT admin NO ONE has confidence in them and everyone in the industry on an enterprise level is running away from their products cause we can't be left with alot of users on an unsupported platform when they go under.

Everyone is moving towards BYOD active sync devices and BB offers nothing of value anymore to the enterprise world.

They are toast, and of course the consumer world doesn't even know they exist anymore.

I agree that BlackBerry is most likely to never recover their smartphone share though BlackBerry 10 is a great OS and is much better than Android in my opinion. However the new CEO is aware that for BlackBerry to survive it needs to be more about phone hardware ... that is why recently they opened up their enterprise software to Apple, Android phones and are moving to health-related and auto solutions. BlackBerry as a phone may be dead but the company as a whole is far from dead.

http://www.therecord.com/news-...dds-have-improved-to-80-20/

Blackberry 10 is a great OS. It's safe and secure, easy to use and runs Android apps.. everything Android should have been. I wish Chen and BlackBerry all the best.

Its refreshing to see such honesty from corporate leadership, he makes no bones about it, BB is in serious trouble. I wish him and BB the best, I don't want to see BB fade away but at the same time I do not want to invest into their platform while its on such shaky ground. They have to come up with something drastic and fast.

back in 1997 when steve jobs returned to apple, they predicted apple's death regardless as well. not saying chen is another jobs but no one knows the future and it's only in hindsight can we look back at the results.

i appreciate his honest assessment of himself as well as the company and i also believe there is some life left. more than anything, i'd like to see more competition in the marketplace, and as a canuck who went to school adjacent to the company HQ, it'd be nice to see the revival of the canadian company.

Arpit said,
back in 1997 when steve jobs returned to apple, they predicted apple's death regardless as well. not saying chen is another jobs but no one knows the future and it's only in hindsight can we look back at the results.

i appreciate his honest assessment of himself as well as the company and i also believe there is some life left. more than anything, i'd like to see more competition in the marketplace, and as a canuck who went to school adjacent to the company HQ, it'd be nice to see the revival of the canadian company.

Technology was a lot slower back then and there were just Microsoft. Today there are 3 other OS in the game and Blackberry new OS is not getting into people hands because no one wants it.

Arpit said,

i'd like to see more competition in the marketplace...

There IS competition in the marketplace... and that's precisely what's killing Blackberry.

anothercookie said,
I hope they have funeral arrangements planned its a lot cheaper to pay for that in advance

Blackberry is hoping Microsoft throws them a funeral. We all know what happened last time.

Microsoft, get in before Google. A company that made phones catered towards enterprise absorbed by a company that is pretty much de facto of enterprise, makes sense.

Lumia: Consumer/Enthusiast
BB: Enterprise

Hasn't the Blackberry enterprise feature set largely been replaced by the competition though? Businesses seem fine with people using iOS, Android, WP, etc. and are not really requiring anyone to use a Blackberry anymore.

So I don't see this rush to acquire Blackberry now that they're failing. It would be like a computer company rushing out to buy a typewriter company that is going out of business because typewriters used to be the "de facto" of office productivity. They might have some patents, but that's about it.

Yep Enterprises are moving toward "Bring Your Own Device" active sync model and leveraging Mobile Device Management Administration to control it all. It all works alot better than the old BES server infrastructure which was expensive and a nightmare to administrate from and admin perspective.

While it is true that businesses have started to allow the use of iOS and Andriod, that does not mean the features have been replaced. I work in that industry and I can tell you that for a larger company that wants to be able to fully manage mobile devices, iOS and Andriod are not even to the point Blackberry was 10 years ago.

First time device setup on a Blackberry requires the user to type in their email address and an activation password, that is it, everything was setup at that point. If they had an old Blackberry, all settings got transferred over. If the business wanted to set a policy, all those features where included in the BES. The biggest hassle was typically troubleshooting carrier activation issues.

Contrast that with iOS or Andriod. Setup take much longer and if you want control over the devices beyond the super basic features of ActiveSync, then you pay out the nose for a MDM package, which costs more and is harder to setup than BES.

Don't confuse me for a BB apologist. I gave up mine over 5 years ago and was happy to do so. I just like to bring facts in when people start making fun of old technology.

Edited by sphbecker, May 29 2014, 7:33pm :

Denial at the highest level of the company. Kind of explains how they got in this position in the first place.

The problem with Blackberry is that they focus too much in the enterprise while they was making money with the consumer version of their products, they relaxed too much without innovating anything new. One they realized that are not attractive to the consumers and the enterprise saw much better products for less in other companies. They loss basically almost all hardware business. I am surprised that they still selling phones after so many billions of dollars losses.