John Chen has a difficult road ahead of him, something he has acknowledged repeatedly since taking on the role of CEO at BlackBerry. In his latest interview with The New York Times, he went so far as to admit that phones might not be a major part of BlackBerry’s future, depending on where the software takes the company. If BlackBerry can find a profitable way to produce new phones, it will, but otherwise the company plans to focus on embedding its software into other products, forming partnerships and even building new devices altogether.
“Apple has to sell 58 million phones to get, I’d guess, a 10 to 12 percent margin,” said Mr. Chen. “If you’re not first or second in phone sales, where do you get any margin? You could sell 30 million phones and lose money. I have to be realistic here.”
Chen goes on to argue that the smartphone market might not be an everlasting revenue stream anyway. It’s his responsibility to diversify for when or if the smartphone market reaches saturation or a new craze captures the attention of the public. The reveal of BlackBerry’s involvement with Apple’s CarPlay is just one example of the reach Chen wants to have going forward.
John Chen is acutely aware that BlackBerry is not the most appealing brand in the electronics market, but he’s looking for inspiration from another underdog to find his place in a very competitive field.
“I watched Steve Jobs on YouTube, when he came back to Apple,” said Mr. Chen. “He got up and said, ‘I don’t have a new product, I’m insanely focused on my customer base.’ That’s me now.”