New BlackBerry CEO talks turnaround, says ‘it’s not all about volume’

BlackBerry z30 hands on

John Chen is on the offensive. BlackBerry is making small steps to right its sinking ship by outsourcing device manufacturing, selling unused real estate (thanks to massive layoffs) and focusing on the enterprise.

In an interview with Forbes’ Rich Karlgaard, BlackBerry’s new CEO admits thats he’s looking forward to turning around a second company — his first was Sybase, which he brought back from the brink to sell to SAP three years ago.

“It’s not all about volume,” he says, likening BlackBerry’s lower sales forecasts to the niche players in the automotive industry like Porsche. “[They are] doing extremely well,” he says, referring to the German-based car company. “[They serve] a particular segment of the market, doing well for its shareholders and owners,” Chen continues.

He admits that there is an app gap, but many CEOs, companies and IT firms — 30%, according to Chen — favour security and productivity over apps. “Security is more than an exercise in avoiding snooping or being listened to or copied. It’s also about data security. You can’t afford to have somebody steal or change your data. After Angela Merkel was hacked she moved straight to a BlackBerry,” he says.

Though, according to the latest IDC data, BlackBerry’s shipments dropped to 0.6% of the worldwide market share, those numbers don’t take into account legacy BlackBerry devices like the Bold 9900 that still sell well in emerging markets.

Chen is looking forward to the challenge of turning around the company. “I thought the world would be better off with a strong BlackBerry. You know, the company has 44,000 patents. And I thought it might be a fixable thing. It will be a difficult challenge, but if it were going to be easy, why do it?”