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BlackBerry: The way forward

Published: Monday, 30 Dec 2013 | 7:00 AM ET
By: John Chen, executive chair and CEO of BlackBerry

It's been easy for competitors to promote negative stories about BlackBerry, focusing on the business of the past. But I'm not focused on who BlackBerry used to be—I'm focused on what BlackBerry will be today and in the future.

Today, our company is strong financially, technologically savvy and is well-positioned for the future. In less than two months, my team and I have engineered a new strategy to stabilize the company, return to our core strength in enterprise and security, and maximize efficiencies.

This isn't the first time I've held the reins at a tech company facing challenging circumstances. I'm here to tackle this challenge because I believe we can succeed.

I'm surrounded by a talented team of industry leaders, including our new leaders for enterprise, corporate development and strategic planning, and marketing. In the coming weeks, I'll continue to build out my leadership team with those who have the skills and passion to get BlackBerry back on the path to profitability.

It was important to make swift and impactful changes to ensure that our customers' investments in BlackBerry's infrastructure and solutions are secure. With these changes, I've made a commitment to be transparent with my strategy and how I will execute.

The team's first priority was to focus on our core business drivers, so we had to move to a new operating unit structure: Enterprise Services, Messaging, QNX Embedded business and the Devices business. This structure will drive greater focus on services and software, establish a more efficient business model for the Devices business, and support each unit's transformation and growth objectives.

When it comes to enterprise, we're still the leader. Don't be fooled by the competition's rhetoric claiming to be more secure or having more experience than BlackBerry. With a global enterprise customer base exceeding 80,000, we have three times the number of customers compared to Good, AirWatch and MobileIron combined. This makes BlackBerry the leader in 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 allowed to use only BlackBerry. Across the globe, seven out of seven of the G7 governments are also BlackBerry customers.

Our popular messaging service, BBM, is also renowned in regulated industries for being the most secure mobile-messaging service, and consumers love it, too. In the last 60 days, more than 40 million new iOS and Android users have registered to use BBM. We will continue to invest in this popular service and build out its features and channels, with plans to turn it into a revenue stream in the coming years.

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.

To be more nimble and responsive to market demands and customer needs, we have streamlined our Devices business model and partnered with Foxconn to manufacture smartphones in Indonesia and other fast growing markets. We're also focusing our design and hardware team on developing high-quality products at competitive prices. Leveraging Foxconn's scale and efficiency will also allow us to compete more effectively and create speed to market since we can design for faster product life cycles. With a partner dedicated to our hardware, BlackBerry can focus on what we do best—iconic design, world-class security, software development and enterprise-mobility management.

We've accomplished a great deal in these last couple months, and we're positioned for the long haul. We have a strong cash position with more than $3 billion on hand, a renewed spirit, and trusted technology, network and platform.

I believe BlackBerry has a clear lane ahead of us to create new trails as a nimbler, more agile competitor.

The journey has just begun.

—By John Chen

John Chen is chief executive officer of BlackBerry and executive chair of the company's board of directors. Follow BlackBerry on Twitter at @BlackBerry4Biz.
Keyboard seems a trademark of BB phone. It is unique among other phones... May be a good move by the new CEO...

BlackBerry to return focus to phones with keyboards

LAS VEGAS — BlackBerry, which struggled to entice customers with touch-screen models last year, plans to return its focus to keyboard-equipped phones under Chief Executive Officer John Chen.

“I personally love the keyboards,” Mr Chen said in an interview on Monday with Bloomberg Television at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

In the future, the company’s phones will predominantly have physical keyboards, he said, rather than touch screens.

BlackBerry CEO: Our Foxconn phone will cost under $200
Foxconn has its role, says John Chen, "but we will do the next set of cool phones." He also hints at another potential keyboard smartphone for this year.

by Roger Cheng January 7, 2014 10:58 AM PST

LAS VEGAS -- BlackBerry will likely have at least two smartphones hitting the market this year.
That's according to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who spoke to the media in a roundtable at the Consumer Electronics Show here Tuesday. The company is working on a Foxconn-built touch-screen smartphone that he said will be priced under $200. He also teased another, and higher-end, smartphone that would include a traditional keyboard, which would be designed in-house.
The devices signal that BlackBerry isn't quite ready to give up on selling smartphones to consumers, although it won't repeat the flashy -- yet ultimately doomed -- attempt to take on leading smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4.
"We're not retreating from the consumer business," Chen said.

Still, Chen said the focus of the company for the next 18 months will be on the enterprise, which is likely where its more traditional keyboard smartphone will come into play. In addition to devices, he wants to shore up the enterprise service and mobile device management business, build upon the momentum of the BlackBerry Messenger service, and better utilize its QNX platform.

Although Chen came aboard as the interim CEO of BlackBerry (and chairman, too), just two months on he has quietly dropped the "interim" bit, and said Tuesday he will stay with the company until it is financially and strategically sound, a milestone that he projected would be through the next 18 months. He confirmed that BlackBerry has halted its search for a new CEO indefinitely, thus providing a little stability to the embattled company.

Chen has already put his mark on the company. Shortly after taking the interim CEO title, he cleaned house at BlackBerry, eliminating several senior executives involved with the previous regime's failed attempt to turn the business around. BlackBerry also just dropped Alicia Keys as its "chief creative officer," as its focus shifts to big business and government clients.

Over the last few weeks, Chen hired SAP executive John Sims to run the enterprise unit, and on Monday named former Sony Ericsson and HTC executive Ron Louks to head the devices business.
Chen also took the chance at the roundtable to dismiss the notion that BlackBerry is outsourcing its device business to Chinese manufacturer Foxconn. He called the new arrangement more of a partnership, and while Foxconn will deal with the mechanical design, BlackBerry will work on some of the hardware and will focus on the software. The phones will still carry the BlackBerry brand and be sold by its sales force.

Chen said Foxconn would be able to move faster than BlackBerry on design and manufacturing, and could bring about cost savings because Foxconn could get better terms for components. The phones would also use more standardized parts, and Foxconn would hold the inventory, eliminating one financial risk for BlackBerry.

"For emerging markets, BlackBerry will let Foxconn take a bigger role," he said. "But we will do the next set of cool phones."
Chen said he expects the company to be cash flow positive within the next four quarters and profitable by fiscal 2016.

On display during the roundtable Tuesday was the enthusiasm and wit that Chen demonstrated when building up mobile enterprise software company Sybase (which was eventually acquired by German enterprise software giant SAP). He insisted he has a plan for the next 18 months, but quipped that he wasn't sure whether he would be able to execute on all of it.
But Chen faces significant challenges. Although he remained positive about the most recent quarter, noting that the company's inventory issues have cleared up, BlackBerry posted a wider loss than expected. Its market share in the smartphone business has dwindled, and Chen's attempt to sell smartphones through enterprises could be hampered by the trend of businesses to allow their employees to bring in their own devices.

On the enterprise device side, BlackBerry faces a potentially dangerous opponent in Samsung and its enterprise service, named Knox. Samsung has plastered billboards and buses with the Knox brand, bringing the same kind of marketing heft that helped make its Galaxy S franchise a blockbuster.

Chen said he doesn't underestimate Samsung.

"If they deliver on what they say, they're a legitimate threat," he said.
The "if," of course, underscores his belief that Samsung may not be ready. Samsung's Knox was recently found to have security flaws in the software, a black eye for the Korean conglomerate's attempts to break into the business arena. Still, he wasn't about to downplay the threat, and said BlackBerry has to do better.
"I love a good fight," he said.

BlackBerry CEO Chen on his plan to win back enterprise customers
Looks to BlackBerry Messenger to offer enterprises a strong emergency communications option

By Matt Hamblen, Computerworld

January 08, 2014, 3:00 PM — LAS VEGAS -- Recently-installed BlackBerry CEO John Chen is on a mission to restore the ailing company to financial health, largely by restoring faith in BlackBerry among corporate CIO's and other traditional enterprise customers.

It's a big task.

The former Sybase CEO has been meeting with enterprise customers since taking the BlackBerry post on an interim basis on Nov. 4 after the departure of Thorsten Heins and a failed attempt to take the company private.

"I have spoken with carriers and CIOs and distributors and the conversation is always very positive," Chen said in an interview with Computerworld at the International CES conference here. "They see why it's good for the market to have a successful BlackBerry. I seem to get meetings easily. They want us to be successful. There's a lot of good will out there."

Chen, who analysts call a no-nonsense administrator, has been busy reorganizing BlackBerry's top management. On Monday, BlackBerry hired Ron Louks, who will serve as president of devices and emerging solutions reporting directly to Chen.

Louks was most recently CEO of OpenNMS Group and previously was Chief Strategy Officer at HTC America and Chief Technology Officer at Sony Ericsson. Handpicked for the job by Chen, Louks will focus on BlackBerry's long-term product roadmap, including hardware, software and design, along with the company's joint development efforts.

Chen said he still owns a Sony Ericsson cell phone that Louks helped design there. "It was small and thin and had a tiny keyboard, but was not good for surfing the Web," he said, pointing to a historical Web browsing problem with earlier BlackBerry phones.

"I hired him because I am an enterprise guy and I needed a device guy," Chen said.

Chen agreed that if BlackBerry phones of six years ago had a browser like that in the latest Z10, Q10 and Z30 models, the company might not have fallen so far behind Apple's iPhone and an array of Android phones.

He also agreed that the boot time on those new BlackBerry devices is "too long -- we will fix that."

Computerworld reviewed all three phones and found the average boot time exceeds 70 seconds -- double that of many other new phones. Chen attributed that to the time needed to load all of BlackBerry's famous security software.

BlackBerry hasn't yet said what its next phone will be called or when it will hit the market, although in the months before Chen took over, BlackBerry seemed headed to developing only enterprise-class smartphones. Then, in December, BlackBerry announced a five-year strategic partnership with Foxconn to build smartphones for Indonesia and other fast-growing markets where low cost phones, sometimes with fewer features, are more popular.

"I do have a consumer play with Foxconn ... especially outside the U.S. I don't want to leave those markets, but the main focus of mine is to restore enterprise confidence," Chen said. "For the immediate future, I'm going to be in the enterprise."

One potential way to win back enterprise users, Chen hinted, could be with an enterprise-grade BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, one that uses the SMS channel as a way for companies and government agencies to have an emergency communications network during catastrophic network outages.

"I could make BBM the enterprise emergency [channel] for people who want serious" connectivity, he said. BBM could be used for voice calls, and eventually for videoconferencing. "There's a lot of value, a lot of stuff to deliver to customers," he said.

Some government customers have told Chen that BlackBerry's network stayed up when others failed during various crises and emergencies. That gives Chen confidence he can win back enterprise customers despite the recommendations from some analysts that their clients find alternatives to BlackBerry.

Part of his job is going is to convince CIO's to take back some of the control they have lost in recent years as workers increasingly used their own devices in a sometimes chaotic bring-your-own-device world. "In some companies, the CIO has completely lost control and I'm trying to convince them they need to regain control," Chen said. "There's has been a loss of way."

"BlackBerry is definitely still the most secure [mobile] solution," Chen said. "The question is, does [argument] bring me enough business? In the long term, it will."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is
Fairfax increases its stake on the company...

BlackBerry says Fairfax to buy US$250 mln more debentures

TORONTO] Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd will buy another US$250 million worth of BlackBerry Ltd's convertible debentures, the companies said Wednesday, providing the struggling smartphone maker with much-needed cash.

The move by Fairfax, the Canadian property and casualty insurer run by investment guru Prem Watsa, will double the company's holdings of BlackBerry's debt. Fairfax also owns a 9.9 per cent equity stake in BlackBerry, making it the company's largest shareholder.

Ref: Reuters, Business Times Breaking News
It would be interesting to see the shorts report on Nasdaq every mid and end month to see how bullish/bearish-ness.

This idea was flagged in seekingAlpha

I am quite interested to see how John Chen is focusing on the Enterprise solution especially in government contracts.

It will likely be bumpy ride since the cash burn is high downward pressures in their quarterly reporting. However the market seems to give Chen a lot of lee-way, so hopefully it may give the price some support.

Chen's restricted stock valued at $85 million @ 13 million shares that will vest over the next five years = $6.54 per share
(three years to get 25%,
four years for the next 25% and
a full five years for the remaining 50%.)
It is a good news, with a similar team as in Sybase, a success story...

BlackBerry CEO hires another former colleague to drive turnaround

[TORONTO] Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry Ltd has hired another of its new chief executive's former colleagues to head its global sales team as part of its latest efforts to engineer a turnaround.

The Canadian company said Eric Johnson will report directly to John Chen, who took over as CEO in early November after BlackBerry scrapped a campaign to sell itself.

Mr Johnson, who will be president of global sales, previously worked in senior executive roles at SAP AG and Sybase. He joins fellow SAP and Sybase alumni now running BlackBerry's acquisitions, marketing, and enterprise sales teams.

Ref: Reuters & Business Times Breaking News
There was an interesting interview with John Chen published years ago in which he stated his 'hiring policy':
1. One third come from people who has worked with him in the past ('trusted former coworker')
2. One third come from existing organization ('insider')
3. One third come from new people, who have never worked with him and not from existing organization.

So far we have seen a lot of new promotes from the first camp (people who have worked with him at Sybase and then SAP, following SAP's acquisition of Sybase). One from the third camp (the one who come from HTC and Sony Ericsson)

Citron looks at a $15 Target – Minimum

As a short seller, nothing creates a better investment opportunity than a heavily shorted stock based on a flawed thesis. This creates unique trading opportunities that are relatively infrequent. Citron thinks this unique circumstance now applies to BlackBerry [formerly Research in Motion: NASDAQ:BBRY) ].

BlackBerry was such a ubiquitous handset brand just a few years ago, and fell off the radar so brutally, that short sellers have failed to realize that its identity no longer defines the company. Also, when seeking short sale opportunities, we always look for “bad” or “misguided” management. If that is still your thesis with BlackBerry, we suggest it is time to exit.

Let’s start here: BlackBerry completely blew a market leadership position, which it will never recover. They lost their dominant handset business, and had their lunch eaten by Apple and Google. That was then. Get over it.
"BlackBerry today trades at a market capitalization of roughly $4.4 billion. Considering the recently announced $250 million convertible bond purchase by Fairfax, BlackBerry should have close to $3.45 billion of cash on hand, given that it exited the quarter with around $3.2 billion."

In the last 4 quarters it has $4b in operating expenses and operating loss of $4b. In dot com terms we call this cash burn, no doubt at a less alarming rate due to restructuring

If we trace crackberry's success, it buoyed down to the seamless integration of the keypad and the secure push email vs the clumsy Nokia N series "smart" phones which was the only competitor in town before iPhone. At its peak every institutional broker has a blackberry. Tens years on the landscape has changed and advanced. No doubt there is still value in their secured enterprise solutions, but their core advantage in push email and keypad in the face of smartphones has dwindled tremendously.

IMHO going back to their roots is probably the right way to go, but like Apple in 1997 I think the window for Blackberry is actually pretty short. They don't have wealth of critical IP like Kotak in photography and graphics. Personally I don't think they can make it alone with their exisitng technology and platform beyond 2015... best exit plan is to be acquired by Google, Microsoft or maybe Samsung
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