If You Can't Stand the Blood, Get Out of BlackBerry's Emergency Room

BlackBerry CEO John Chen is not afraid to get some blood on his bespoke suit. Source: BlackBerry corporate blogs.

John Chen just upgraded his BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) title, dropping the "interim" part of his "interim CEO" title. He knows it won't be a walk in the park.

In an interview with Re/code, Chen underscored the challenges ahead -- and how much he relishes wrestling those demons.

"I am abnormal," he said, because most executives would prefer "a safer, easier job." BlackBerry is sick, in Chen's opinion. As the doctor on call, he should worry more about fixing what's wrong and less about dwelling on how the patient got sick. And that might take some messy work.

"If you are an emergency room doctor, you should not be afraid of the blood," he said.

Tough words indeed, and a refreshing 180-degree change from the blissfully optimistic view of predecessor Thorsten Heins. "No drastic change is needed," Heins said when he took the CEO post in 2012. Chen disagrees.

Chen aims at recapturing the corporate market, where BlackBerry devices and messaging services once defined the space. To do so, he wants to build engineering and sales offices closer to major business hubs like New York City and the San Francisco Bay. Getting closer to your actual customers is never a bad idea, so kudos to Chen on this one.

He also hopes to keep the BlackBerry messaging platform relevant despite the rise of WhatsApp, Line, and Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iMessage, just to name a few major rivals. That might work with a corporate-market focus as well, but Chen will see plenty of fresh blood if he wades into the consumer market again.

Last but not least, Chen noted that the QNX platform that's at the heart of BlackBerry 10 also is a market leader in the automotive market. Exploiting that strength would be timely as both Apple and Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) want to undermine BlackBerry's in-car expertise right now.

For example, Audi announced a QNX-based system two years ago, but the German car builder also works with an Android-based Google system nowadays. At the same time, Apple is stealing contracts with BMW and General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) away from QNX. BlackBerry has plenty of experience with losing business to Google and Apple in the smartphone and tablet spaces -- will this market be any different?

Maybe not, but John Chen is at least walking into these challenges with his eyes wide open. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, right?

I don't think that John Chen can win three wars at once, but it might be enough to score one or two wins. The next time General Motors wants to redesign the audio/video/navigation systems in its Cadillacs or Chevrolets, I expect Chen to do whatever he can to steal that business back from Apple and Google. He'll do the same when GM's 213,000 employees need a standard corporate messaging system, playing up BlackBerry's experience with secure communications and a sweet discount deal to boot.

Let the consumer market slip away, Mr. Chen. Your BlackBerry might stand a chance in these core markets as long as your head is screwed on straight.

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  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 4:02 PM, k1moops wrote:

    RIM/BBRY's overriding bane was its toxic corporate culture that was a remnant of the Imperial ages colonial bourgeois style. The RIM management was intoxicated with anti evolutionary ideas that promoted departmental empire buildings loaded with inferior outdated staff who were counterproductive yet bribed with hefty unearned wages. RIM caved in under its own dead weight which was far too long overdue.

    Kudos to Mr. Chen for boldly cutting out this gigantic rot that is all too common among Canadian companies. Mr. Chen's plan to cut out the rots and maggots of BBRY turning it into a nimble and highly focused corporate platform is the right plan for the near future as IBM is unleashing new X1 Intel based extremely powerful servers ushering in ultra-practical business and public solutions. I see Mr. Chen hiring the no-nonsense tech pros in the decades proven truly high performance and secure software such as IBM's CICS real time transaction processing systems long been used for extremely high performance with rock solid message processing currently running in all the very large commercial and government institutions. Genuine real time very large scale solutions and apps can only be supported by IBM CICS running on top of either DB2 or Oracle databases, there are no alternatives. SAP R/2 itself was an IBM CICS VSAM under the vaunted TSO/ISPF option. The reason why this CICS solution was never popular was purely because of its prohibited cost. Sybase was never a message driven real time online transaction processing solution, but SAP definitely is. It would be very interesting to see Mr. Chen steering BBRY into this message based corporate real time transaction processing as IBM CICS SOA takes on the role as the only viable post-internet platform. BBRY will need a lot of pseudo-conversational solution expertise in design, architecture, and development, namely, IBM CICS experts who are now mostly retired, or about to retire.

    It is sad to see Americans so dis-interested in science and technology for the past 2 generations, America has largely ignored its most glorious gem in the past 40 years that ruled the planet - IBM CICS, but with Mr. Chen at the helm at BBRY, and with IBM hopefully wiser learning from its greedy ugly past and now hopefully reunite with SAP which was formed by 5 former disgruntled IBMers, make enterprise solutions the heart of a sound healthy economy using 'true' technologies and skills, instead of just blindly consumerizing simple purpose solutions that do not move the nation forward.

    Btw, I am a long time IBM CICS expert.

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