Blackberry may cut device launches to just one a year, says CEO

BlackBerry may follow Apple and release just one or two phones a year, according to chief executive John Chen.

BlackBerry's renewed focus on software and security products may see the company slash the number of phones it releases per year to just one.

With a new round of job cuts announced this week, BlackBerry has already signaled that it's not finished the process of overhauling its strategy and structure that began with the appointment of CEO John Chen. And with fewer hands on deck, BlackBerry is now considering slashing the four handsets it makes each year down to two or one.

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"We are reducing jobs, but it's not so much as reducing, we are shifting it. Traditionally, we make four phones a year. We are not going to do that anymore. We are going to at least cut it down to a lot less number, maybe two, maybe one," Chen told Fox Business on Thursday, following the company's acquisition of crisis alert firm AtHox this week.

BlackBerry reported in its first quarter earnings yesterday that it had sold 1.1 million devices for the period, around the same level of sales as when Chen took the reins 2013 and promised to rebuild the company.

The problem BlackBerry faces as it cuts its devices portfolio even further is that it's becoming ever more dependent on software revenues to survive, the bulk of which comes from BES 12. But as ZDNet's Larry Dignan pointed out recently, it's unclear whether customers liked BlackBerry's software on its own or due to its integration with hardware.

BlackBerry of course isn't alone in drastically shrinking its smartphone output with Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung all trimming back handset variants in the search for the profits that seems to be elusive for all smartphone players except Apple.

Chen also said security and the enterprise had been in BlackBerry's "DNA" but that it dropped that focus a few years back.

"We kind of wandered away from it a little bit, now we are back in full force," said Chen, adding that it spends $100m a year on improving its security and making acquisitions to boost its software portfolio.

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