Interim BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, is no longer. As of today, his title is merely chief executive officer.
During a CES roundtable in Las Vegas today, Chen said that the company has stopped searching for a new leader, satisfied with the vision that Chen has set out in his many interviews and open letters.
The company has signalled it will emphasize the consumer market less, focusing on its core market of enterprise customers and device management. With a growing fleet of BES customers, and improved tools to manage Android and iOS devices, Chen claims that BlackBerry is better positioned than any other company to handle the security needs of large corporations.
In addition to opening up a Security Innovation Center in Washington, D.C., the company has outsourced its smartphone design to Foxconn, which will reportedly develop a low-cost BlackBerry 10 device for the Indonesian market sometime in April or May. Chen hinted that there may be another QWERTY BlackBerry 10-powered device coming to North America later this year, but refrained from giving any specifics.
As for the failure of BlackBerry 10 to reach consumers on a broad level, Chen said that when it arrived in January 2013 it wasn’t intuitive, and users didn’t respond well to its high learning curve. As the company has fixed many usability issues in BlackBerry 10.1 and, most recently 10.2, consumer response has been very positive. Now, Chen says, an emphasis on getting BlackBerry 10 into the hands of more business customers will eventually have a cascading effect on the consumer market. He acknowledges there are plenty of roadblocks, iOS and Android dominance among them, but he’s confident BlackBerry 10 is here to stay.
BlackBerry’s aim to be profitable by early 2016 necessitates a focus on the enterprise market, which Chen says engenders higher profit margins and less churn between generations. But as for the devices themselves, Chen acknowledges that BlackBerry just can’t compete against Samsung and Apple, especially with those companies’ stronger buying power; it’s unlikely BlackBerry will have another North American flagship for a while. Instead, focusing on the enterprise market for existing devices like the Q10 and Z30, and adding a number of lower-cost BB10 products to emerging markets, will help return them to profitability.