Over the past few months there have been major changes at BlackBerry. Under the leadership of John Chen, the company booted several top executives from the previous regimes, brought in new talent, restructured itself in four major divisions and tightened its belt even further. For the first time it signed a five year agreement with an outside manufacturer to co-develop smartphones, as Foxconn bears all the inventory risk, BlackBerry can avoid expensive inventory write-downs. There has been much chatter that BlackBerry is increasingly focusing towards its enterprise customers and that consumers will be left out of the fray. CEO John Chen sets the record straight in an interview with Fast Company.
Chen says that one major challenge that the new leadership has been tackling is BlackBerry’s approach on both enterprise and consumer markets. While the former is its lifeblood, BlackBerry hasn’t been able to make a good impression on the consumer market for a couple of years now. All 2013 smartphones performed below expectations, leading many to believe that perhaps high-end smartphones won’t be made anymore, and that the handset division will only churn out mid-range devices manufactured by Foxconn. Chen says that this is far from the truth, they’re not turning their backs to the consumer, however the company is going to narrow focus down to its core strengths.
High-end smartphones are still on the cards. The company is expected to release two premium smartphones this year, aimed towards the consumer market, as well as its enterprise customers. Previously it had as many as six new devices planned for the year. Emerging markets will be handled by the devices Foxconn manufactures, while BlackBerry will handle the high-end ones itself. Chen says that there’s now the right team at BlackBerry that can rebuild the company “for the benefit of all our constituencies.”