Everyone hopes for the new year to be more successful than the previous one, but few will have a more daunting task to achieve that than BlackBerry’s new CEO John Chen.
Which is precisely why Chen has decided to get the ball rolling early, whilst most people in the tech world are still kicking it back at home. In a memo penned for CNBC yesterday, Chen reveals that the beleaguered smartphone maker has no intention of rolling over and dying as many have predicted, and will instead pursue a much revised strategy that he hopes will lead to its revival.
Chen’s focus is on steering BlackBerry to a future driven almost entirely by the enterprise. That’s a smart move, as the enterprise is by far and away the company’s best customer base, with thousands of businesses still using its BlackBerry Enterprise Services. At the same time, the company is likely to scale back on any new consumer sector projects.
Acknowledging, that BlackBerry is “facing challenging circumstances” (understatement of the year perhaps), Chen outlined three areas where the company can redouble its efforts over the next 12 months, namely its Enterprise Services, BlackBerry Messenger and its QNX operating system.
Mobile Device Management
The main focus will be BlackBerry’s continued leadership in the field of mobile device management:
“Many in the regulated industries — those with the most stringent security needs — still depend solely on BlackBerry to secure their mobile infrastructure. 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.”
Noting that BlackBerry totally dominates the MDM sector, Chen pointed out that it’s corporate customers currently number a not insignificant 80,000. It’s this that Chen wants to grow, and to do so he’s planning to push harder in international markets, leveraging the company’s ties with Foxconn to deliver newer smartphones featuring “iconic design, world-class security, software development and enterprise-mobility management.”
Chen also asserts that the BBM messaging service still has potential to grow, noting that it’s “the most secure mobile-messaging service, and consumers love it, too.” Since BBM was launched on both iOS and Android back in October, more than 40 million new users have signed up for the service, which the company plans to “turn into a revenue stream in the coming years.”
What isn’t clear is how BlackBerry intends to turn BBM into a revenue stream. It might have signed up 40 million users already, but let’s not forget that this is a free messaging app and there are dozens of similar apps already that it’ll be forced to compete with.
The third and final component of Chen’s strategy is QNX, BlackBerry’s real-time operating system. Used in Cisco routers and the foundation of OnStar’s in-car tech, Chen says that QNX is destined to have a bright future as the Internet of Things expands its reach.
“QNX has always been one of our most exciting technologies and it is poised for further growth. Already the dominant machine-to-machine technology of the automotive industry, new capabilities and cloud services are being unveiled at CES in January, and we’re looking toward adjacent verticals for expansion.”
Chen’s post paints BlackBerry in a very optimistic light, but it doesn’t hide the fact that this is still a company displaying all the signs of being in its final death throes. The past two years have seen BB lurch from one disaster to the next, with numerous CEO’s passing through its revolving doors, falling stock prices and flagging sales, causing investors, analysts and consumers alike to lose faith in its hopes of a comeback.
Under Chen’s stewardship, it looks like BlackBerry will at least go down fighting – it’s not about to give up the ghost just yet, but whether Chen has what it takes to reinvent BlackBerry as a mobile device management and embedded systems software company, only time will tell.