Wed, Dec 04, 2013 - Page 15 News List

BlackBerry head says company is ‘very much alive’

AP, TORONTO

BlackBerry’s interim chief executive on Monday said that reports of the death of the company “are greatly exaggerated.”

Former Sybase CEO John Chen (程守宗) said in a letter to customers that BlackBerry is returning to its roots, refocusing on delivering devices and services to business users.

Chen was brought in as the interim chief executive and executive chair after talks to sell the company collapsed last month.

He said in the letter that the company is aware that “BlackBerry is not for everyone.”

Blackberry quickly lost dominance as the leading smartphone maker after the 2007 launch of Apple’s touch screen iPhone and the 2008 introduction of Google-powered Android phones.

Chen says that competitors are circling, but that BlackBerry is “very much alive, thank you.”

Chen said BlackBerry has substantial cash and said he will refocus the company on four areas, including the handset business. Chen put more emphasis on BlackBerry’s mobile device management business, which allows IT departments to manage different devices connected to their corporate networks. He also emphasized BlackBerry’s popular BlackBerry Messenger application, and he mentioned embedded QNX software systems, which are used in in-vehicle infotainment systems and industrial machines.

BGC analyst Colin Gillis said a letter meant to reassure customers is needed. Focusing on business users is probably the only move Blackberry has left, he said.

“It’s a much smaller business. This is the niche player. You can build phones for those people in that niche. You can have a decent little business,” Gillis said. “Enterprise customers who like keyboards. There’s not really a good keyboard device out there. Some people like keyboards. I personally don’t love typing on glass.”

Gillis said he expects Chen to name himself CEO soon because he is not acting like an interim CEO. “He’s signing all this stuff as CEO,” Gillis said.

Shares of BlackBerry rose US$0.04 to US$6.37 in afternoon trading on the NASDAQ.

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