BlackBerry seeks to win back Australian business from rivals after a late realisation that it must adapt to the growing trend of bring your own device (BYOD), company executives said at the BlackBerry 10 launch in Australia.
Australia is a "key market" for BlackBerry due its advanced network technology and high smartphone penetration, said CEO Thorsten Heins. Matthew Ball, BlackBerry managing director of Australia and New Zealand, acknowledged customer losses due to BYOD and migration to other devices, but said he believes the new BlackBerry 10 OS positions the company to recapture market share.
"I want it back," he said. "It's my job to get it back."
Heins in part blamed customer losses on the company's slowness to embrace BYOD. "We needed to catch the wave of BYOD and we were probably not the first ones to the party," he said.
When BlackBerry did arrive, the company decided to "really engage" the growing segment of organisations with BYOD policies, "and make sure that we participate from a device perspective" and "also make sure our enterprises have the best cross-platform solution to manage various devices from various manufacturers in a very efficient and very secure way," Heins said.
In keynote remarks, Heins described a "a very, very difficult and challenging transition" for BlackBerry in designing the new OS and devices. When Heins began as CEO at the start of 2012, he received warnings that the company might go bankrupt before the release of BlackBerry 10, he said. People told him "we were just on a losing streak and should just fragment the company and sell it right away."
But on launch day in Australia, BlackBerry is "debt free and as of last quarter ... we had $2.8 billion cash in the bank," he said. "This is enough money to market BlackBerry 10 successfully" and fund research and development for future mobile products, he said.
Speaking later with reporters, Heins threw water on talk that he might sell the company to Lenovo, saying he hadn't spoken face-to-face with Lenovo executives.
Heins questioned how serious Lenovo is about making a move, noting one Lenovo executive's public comments that he wanted to learn BlackBerry's business model.
"That would tell you what the maturity was if there would be any discussions," Heins said.
In his keynote, Heins said the company considered but rejected the idea of building BlackBerry services for Google Android or Microsoft Windows Phone.
"We really thought hard about it," but Heins decided that those operating systems didn't share his vision of a "mobile computing" future, in which users expect to be able to do the same work on a mobile device that they do on any other computer.
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