BlackBerry CEO Chen to Enterprise: 'We Are Very Much Alive, Thank You'

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-12-02
 
 
 

BlackBerry CEO and Executive Chairman John S. Chen has followed up his Nov. 13 open letter with a more-specific note to BlackBerry's enterprise customers and partners.

The message of the Dec. 2 note was summed up in this line: "Our for-sale sign has been taken down and we are here to stay."

BlackBerry announced Nov. 4 that it was accepting a $1 billion investment from a group of investors, including Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest stakeholder, and was implementing a change in leadership that included putting Chen in charge. CEO Thorsten Heins was leaving, the company said.

On Nov. 25, BlackBerry further announced the departure of Chief Operating Officer Kristian Tear, Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben and Chief Financial Officer Brian Bidulka—three members of a four-member team that Heins once called the "strongest leadership team in the mobile business."

The industry has been calling for Chen to offer some specifics, about how he plans to right BlackBerry—a company that was once the darling of enterprise workers and a world leader in smartphone sales, but was undone because it did not realize the extent the Apple iPhone would appeal to consumers and that businesses would let the device through its doors.

"Excellent letter," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told eWEEK. "It's the first time we've gotten a clear sense of direction out of BlackBerry management since the BlackBerry 10 launch."

In the letter, Chen acknowledged that other mobile-device management (MDM) vendors are surely encouraging BlackBerry users to switch off their BES and move. But, no need.

"We are very much alive, thank you," wrote Chen, before highlighting what will be BlackBerry's four areas of focus. His letter stated, in part: "The investments you've made in BlackBerry infrastructure and solutions are secure. I will keep the lines of communication open as we navigate through this transaction.

"We're going back to our heritage and roots—delivering enterprise-grade, end-to-end mobile solutions. As we refocus back to our roots, BlackBerry will target four areas: handsets, EMM solutions, cross-platform messaging, and embedded systems. And, just as important, we will continue to invest in enterprise and security related R&D during our restructuring period," Chen continued in the letter, adding: "In short, reports of our death are greatly exaggerated."

Chen also made a point of insisting that, despite what BlackBerry competitors say, BlackBerry is serious about managing all mobile devices. That's why it took the more belabored approach of introducing a whole new platform in BB10—a change that's enabling BlackBerry to "turbo-charge BYOD initiatives."

He also said that BlackBerry has been investing in enterprise mobility management (EMM) and understands it better than anyone.

As proof, he pointed out that BlackBerry's EMM customer base is larger than any other vendor in Gartner's MDM Magic Quadrant; that BlackBerry manages more devices than any other vendor; that it moves more secure data than anyone; and that it has "substantial cash" and doesn't need to make an annual appeal for funds.

And, of course, Chen spoke to BlackBerry's strongest asset, its security capabilities. He noted that BlackBerry has more certifications from government agencies than any other vendor, and that it's the only vendor to have received "Authority to Operate" certification from the Department of Defense.

In the coming weeks, enterprise customers can expect to see an EMM Realities Webcast series "drill down" into the key points mentioned in the letter, Chen added.

"We know that BlackBerry devices are not for everyone. That's OK," he said in closing. "I believe in BlackBerry and I'm confident in our future in enterprise, our technology and our ability to adapt to changing market needs."

The full text of the letter can be viewed on the Inside BlackBerry for Business Blog.

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