Earlier this morning, Alex Saunders, recently named VP of BlackBerry’s QNX Cloud Business division, posted on his personal blog that he will be departing the company some time before November 3rd. BlackBerry has confirmed Saunders’ impending departure and wished him “the best of luck in his future endeavours.” Saunders, for his part, leaves with a “light heart, and best wishes for today’s BlackBerry team.”
Despite the warm feelings, questions remain. Saunders has only been at the head of the QNX Cloud Business division since its inception nine months ago, as part of the deprecation of BlackBerry’s Developer Relations group (passed to Marty Mallick, also now gone). While Saunders lauds the work done by his team in that time, including 1,000 companies demonstrating interest in Project Ion, the real truth is that he is departing at a precarious time. Project Ion’s select beta is imminent, but it is by no means the launch Saunders contends in his departing statement. With no clear successor in place, Project Ion’s future is as uncertain as BlackBerry’s own.
The timing of Saunders’ departure might also indicate tensions within the QNX team or a change in priorities by BlackBerry CEO John Chen. Or, as Saunders’ third stint with QNX, it might just indicate he was ready for a change. It should be noted that Saunders’ long runway to departure means he is unlikely to be moving to a competitor, as he’d simply not be allowed to stay on if that were true.
Regardless, Saunders leaves behind many fans who will remember him for his passion, dedication, and willingness to take big swings to move BlackBerry forward.
Disclosure: I worked for BlackBerry from 2009-2011. I can attest that Alec Saunders’ love for 80s rock ballads is real.