There has been a lot of speculation about BlackBerry’s future this past year. Some believe that the company may still have a fighting chance, while others debate in online forums and comments sections that the company should just give up as its never going to be able to tackle its rivals. BlackBerry is in a precarious situation, it has bleeded market share in all regions, it has spent billions of dollars in inventory write downs and its hardware division hasn’t been able to produce a hit in a long, long time. One can assume that not a lot of people would want to take the helm of a company that’s facing a mountain of issues, but former Sybase CEO John Chen did. Why, you ask? Chen argues that any other executive or CEO would have wanted a safer and easier job, but he didn’t. “I am abnormal,” quips Chen, in an interview with Re/code.
Chen’s arrival has given investors some hope of a revival. The stock has gained modestly since his first earnings call, and he has kept himself in the press by regularly writing to consumers and enterprise partners about the long-term vision that the new and improved leadership at BlackBerry has. Chen’s plans include going back to the company’s roots, focusing primarily on government and enterprise customers, and getting them on the latest BES10 platform up from the legacy systems that most of them are currently using. He’s betting on enterprise sales to drive device sales, “I think I am going to sell the server first,” Chen says. The new CEO also reveals that he has killed off several phone designs that the company was working on prior to his arrival, and while there are no plans to step out of the device business, BlackBerry’s recent partnership with Foxconn will cater to the low-end and mid-range market whereas the company will develop two high-end devices at HQ.
John Chen wants the company to be close to its customers, which is why BlackBerry plans to open a major sales office near Wall Street in New York, an engineering office in Bay Area and a security research facility in Washington D.C. He also views BBM as a pivotal part of BlackBerry’s future. The newly cross-platform messaging service now touts over 83 million users, half of which are on iOS and Android. The figure is still substantially less than rivals WhatsApp, Line or iMessage, but the company continues to refine its messaging product in a bid to stay competitive and relevant in this particular market. Chen has a solid reputation for engineering Sybase’s turnaround, the market, investors, customers and fans are certainly curious about what he will be able to do at BlackBerry.