BlackBerry CEO admits it 'needs to win the enterprise back' to survive

Summary:The company's chief executive revealed in New York City his plans to win back the enterprise customer base in with high-end phones and services. But there are no plans for a tablet.

NEW YORK — BlackBerry chief executive John Chen laughed off the comments made by Reuters in a press room filled with journalists, despite his stern tone in his Thursday blog post.

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BlackBerry chief executive John Chen Image: BlackBerry

Chen said at a press event in New York City that he "loves" the handset business, and further clarified comments published by Reuters on Wednesday. He said he was "still working on a way to make money in the handset business," but admitted that if there was not a way to make money in the handset business then "of course, I will rethink it."

He said these things take time, and was looking ahead to the future. "We're committed to [the handset business] and we're going to make it work," Chen said confidently.

BlackBerry remains a devices and services company, he said, with the two business units running independently but crucially together to create a whole end-to-end solution, he says. 

That's key for the enterprise customer, he says, which remains the company's top priority. And he's going to win them back with better devices, stronger business and security solutions, and by listening to what its core faithful have to say.

Chen confirmed that the majority of its futures phones will have keyboards, but many will be just touchscreen. This was just one strand of a widely unknown and still shrouded push to "win back" the enterprise customer, which remains at the top of the company's priority list.

"We're going to build high-end phones, and concentrate on the enterprise," he said. But he noted that it's not just about selling millions of units. "That of course helps, but it's a combination of things," notably supporting its enterprise customers, selling servers, and supporting business customers. 

"Outside the developing countries, like Indonesia, we have at least 20 percent market share there. We're going to push into further developing markets," he said, citing India and Thailand. "We like to participate in those markets — and we don't want to leave them. We get our customer base in the developing countries," Chen added.

He also said that BlackBerry doesn't want to announce a product six months ahead while it's still shipping its current product. "We figured that if we don't do that, the industry doesn't know what our plan is. All they see is a decline."

"It's a calculated risk that we're taking," he said. "So far from the customer response, the risk is well taken."

John Sims, BlackBerry's enterprise chief, confirmed after the PlayBook tablet flop, there are no specific plans for a tablet. Chen likes the plan for a tablet, Sims said, but declined to comment further.

Topics: BlackBerry, Smartphones, Tablets

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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