BlackBerry launches QNX Cloud Business division, with Alec Saunders as VP

BlackBerry VP Alec Saunders

Freed now from an interim title, BlackBerry CEO John Chen is not slowing down in his efforts to remake the struggling technology company. In the past 40 days, BlackBerry’s new corporate commander has signed a manufacturing deal with Foxconn, announced the liquidation of three million square feet of office space, and hired a new President of Global Sales and Global Enterprise Services. Talk about hitting the New Year in stride.

Through a blog post on the Inside BlackBerry Business Blog, Chen announced further restructuring, launching a new Cloud Business division within QNX, the embedded systems software maker RIM bought to develop what eventually became BlackBerry 10. The QNX Cloud Business division will focus on solutions for the Internet of Things, and will be lead by Alec Saunders, formerly VP of Developer Relations at BlackBerry (Saunders was also formerly a VP of Marketing at QNX back in the early 2000s; what’s old is new again). The Dev Rel team will now fold into a new Global Alliances and Ecosystems division along with BlackBerry World, to be run by VP Marty Mallick.

While the results will take time to be felt externally, Chen should be commended for his swift and decisive changes. QNX has decades of experience in embedded systems software and will play to its strengths developing IoT solutions; I have no doubt as well that Saunders’ familiarity with the company, as well as his trademark energy and enthusiasm, will lead to big things (and maybe a few more music videos). This is not a home run play, but another long term smart move by Chen.

The merger of BlackBerry’s Developer Relations team into a broader Alliances and Ecosystems division, however, might be a source of concern for the average BlackBerry developer. This is not a statement on Mallick’s abilities, more one of focus: BlackBerry 10 software development is now one item in a portfolio of (admittedly related) responsibilities rather than a sole mandate. Given Mallicks’ background at BlackBerry in Alliances and Business Development, it could also signal a shift away from encouraging a long-tail consumer app catalog towards large deals with enterprise software services. Garage-based BlackBerry 10 developers, take note: BlackBerry is changing.

Disclosure: I previously worked for BlackBerry from 2009-2011, and actually launched the Inside BlackBerry Business Blog, so it’s always fun to see CEOs use it for announcements.