Blackberry’s Chen is pushing hard to turn the company around

John Chen
John Chen

John Chen, the acting CEO at BlackBerry, is unraveling some of the staff and strategy left behind by the prior CEO, Thorsten Heins, who left the firm earlier this month. On Monday, Chen dropped various chiefs: Kristian Tear, the chief operating officer,  Frank Boulben, the chief marketing officer, and the chief financial officer, Brian Bidulka, who will be consulting for the company through the end of the year. Roger Martin, a board member for six years, has resigned. Apparently all these chiefs aren’t needed in the newly refocused BlackBerry.

Chen said in the press release, “BlackBerry has a strong cash position and continues, by a significant margin, to be the top provider of trusted and secure mobile device management solutions to enterprise customers around the world. Building on this core strength, and in conjunction with these management changes, I will continue to align my senior management team and organizational structure, and refine the Company’s strategy to ensure we deliver the best devices, mobile security and device management through BES 10, provide multi-platform messaging solutions with BBM, and expand adoption of QNX embedded systems.”

Tear and Boulben are generally thought to be the heads that needed to be lopped off after the disastrous BlackBerry 10 series, which was supposed to be the springboard to a future BlackBerry that would still be manufacturing its own handsets.

It looks like Chen has decided to keep BlackBerry devices in his plans, and not to transition to a business communications service with client software on other smart phones, notably Apple and Android.

That being said, the company also announced agreements to preinstall BBM — BlackBerry Messenger — on a range of Android smartphones beginning next month. The companies cited include Be, Brightstar, Celkon, EVERCOSS, IMO, Micromax, Mito, Snexian, Spice, TECNO, TiPhone and Zen.

As I argued earlier in the year, there is a place for BlackBerry as a software-first company (BlackBerry could still be made into a software company), with is clients on the leading platforms communicating through its worldwide messaging network which has been built out at great expense. Looks like Chen is pushing hard to get there. We’ll have to watch his progress closely.