BlackBerry has had a hugely tumultuous 2013. In addition to laying off thousands of workers and firing CEO Thorsten Heins, the company nearly went belly-up, with companies like Apple and Samsung offering to buy out its enterprise tech and effectively kill off the BlackBerry brand.
But after an investment of $1 billion from Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. – and a complete shakeup of its executive team – BlackBerry seems to be back on its feet for now, deciding what it needs to do to stay relevant in a world dominated by iOS and Android. At least, that’s what new CEO John Chen said in a letter to customers today, detailing the company’s next steps.
Chen stressed four key areas of focus for BlackBerry in the letter: handsets, EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) solutions, cross-platform messaging, and embedded systems. In other words, BlackBerry is still going to make BlackBerrys for the people who want them, but it’s going to go forward with cross-platform management and messaging so enterprises that are moving to iOS and Android can still utilize BlackBerry’s services.
The new CEO writes that this new focus is the company “going back to our roots,” though it’s really just the same message we’ve heard before from past CEOs. Integrating more popular operating systems, building out infrastructure, and convincing enterprises to adopt BlackBerry’s services is an ambitious and achievable goal – but the company has been trying for years, and numerous shifts in management haven’t been successful at achieving anything. The letter is a move to appease both shareholders and customers alike, and to show that BlackBerry isn’t out of the game just yet, but it’s easier said than done. Enterprises have left and continue to leave BlackBerry services and devices for those offered from its most fierce competitors; Chen and his team have a long road to travel to reclaim the company’s position as a leader in enterprise communications, and it might just be too little, too late.
I’m holding out hope for the Waterloo-based company. There’s definitely room in the smartphone market for a true competitor to iOS and Android – and it’s up to BlackBerry to make something extraordinary to claim it.