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New CEO Chen reveals crucial details of plan to save BlackBerry

Published Jan 13th, 2014 2:25PM EST
BlackBerry CEO Chen Interview

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It looks like John Chen is a man with a plan. In an interview with CrackBerry, Chen gives us a pretty detailed outline of where he wants to take the company over the next couple of years and how he plans on winning back business customers who have switched to a BYOD model for their employees. The big takeaway from the interview is this: Chen wants to make sure that everyone in the world knows that you don’t need to own a BlackBerry handset to be a BlackBerry customer.

First and foremost, Chen thinks that BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is the key for restoring BlackBerry’s name in the mobile realm. The idea is to make BES the best cross-platform mobile device management solution on the planet and to pitch it aggressively to companies who are still trying to get a better handle on how to manage devices that run on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

“Almost all the enterprises in the world today are dealing with mobility in one form or another,” he explains. “Most of them are doing this somewhat piecemeal, somewhat sporadic… There is a need for a very good integrated solution. This is going to be the next BES — so call it BES, 11, 12, 13, 14. But we’ve got to get into how enterprises manage mobile applications — develop, provision, identify, authentication, and so on down — and press a lot more on security.”

The second strategy for keeping BlackBerry relevant in mobile users’ lives is BlackBerry Messenger, which successfully launched this past fall on iOS and Android. Again, Chen is emphasizing the need to decouple the BlackBerry brand from its handsets and he says that the popularity of BBM could help more people see the company more as a provider of secure mobile communications services and not a device manufacturer.

“That was the first time that we de-coupled the brand from the BlackBerry handset, and as you can see, the results are very exciting,” he says. “You’ve got 45 million BlackBerry users, you got 40 million Android/iOS users, so 85 million users for social messaging. It’s getting up there.”

Of course, BBM is also right now a money loser for BlackBerry but Chen doesn’t particularly care because the company needs something that will create a positive impression in consumers’ minds — in other words, it’s a lot like Microsoft sticking with the Xbox even though it’s proven itself to be unprofitable.

On the devices side of things, Chen says that his company’s focus in 2014 has to be on what he calls the “regulated industries” — that is, the industries where workers may have little choice but to stick with BlackBerry due to security regulations.

“They will be the banks, the insurance companies, the health care, the governments, state and federal,” he says. “My number-one objective is for the company to generate cash again — cash-flow positive — and start making money while investing in these areas we talked about. Once we get there and we are getting a good engagement model in the regulated industry, after that I think then the opportunity really opens up.”

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.