The end of the BlackBerry handset is nigh—or at least it will be if the company can’t get its phone business in the black before 2016 is out. BlackBerry CEO John Chen already said he’d think about giving up on handsets if the company’s situation didn’t improve. At Code Mobile on Thursday, Chen added a loose deadline for the end of BlackBerry phones.
“Sometime next year we have to make our device business profitable, otherwise I have to rethink what I do there,” Chen said. “My job is to make sure the value of the company is protected and increases...Even if I’m not in the handset business, getting into providing security for Android lets us provide solutions via software.”
That’s not an outright declaration of “2016 or bust,” but the suggestion is clear.
Why this matters: Prior to the iPhone debut in 2007, BlackBerry was the most prominent smartphone maker in the world. However, the company was never able to adapt to the new generation of smartphones and has been in decline ever since. In September 2009, BlackBerry’s U.S. market share was 42.6 percent, according to comScore. As of August, a little less than six years later, BlackBerry laid claim to just 1.2 percent of the U.S. market. Under Chen, who was named CEO in November 2013, BlackBerry is finally confronting the not-so-promising future of BlackBerry handsets.
Getting Privvy with it
Without a handset business, BlackBerry could focus on cross-platform secure communication apps and BlackBerry Enterprise Server. BES helps enterprises manage large-scale device deployments including BlackBerry, Android, and iOS handsets.
Before BlackBerry will give up on phones, however, it may try its hand at being an Android company. The next major BlackBerry phone will be the Android-based Priv, which is due to be released in late 2015. The Priv is BlackBerry’s attempt to combine its strengths in security with Google Play’s app catalog.
The Priv is BlackBerry’s first Android handset, but it’s likely not the company’s last. When asked if BlackBerry would use Android as a path to profitability, Chen said Android in the enterprise was a very “underserved space” that BlackBerry could get into.
“I love BB10 and I win in the very high-end there,” Chen said. “But the very high-end is not big. In order to make money in the handset business, I need to expand that pie.”
As for BlackBerry 10 devices, Chen wouldn’t say whether the company would still be making them two years from now. “Well, that’s going to be dictated by business choices,” Chen said. BlackBerry 10 is the newest version of the company’s mobile operating system.
[via The Verge]
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.