During a sit-down with BlackBerry’s global enterprise services head John Sims at the BlackBerry Experience: NYC, CEO John Chen came into the room casually (apparently looking for some coffee), and offered some background as to how the whole Reuters interview went down, and how BlackBerry will address the hardware division going forward.
He started by stating he “loves the handset business.” His, now famous Reuters quote, was bookended by “I think we can make it profitable,” in reference to BlackBerry’s hardware division, but unfortunately that was never added to the original report. He then continued:
“I’m working very hard to find a way to make money in the handset business. Then the question was asked, ‘if you don’t make money in the handset business, what are you going to do?’ I said, well, being a businessperson, if you try long enough and you can’t make money, I mean, I’m in the business of making money. If I can’t make money in the handset business, of course I can’t do the handset business. That’s kind of like an obvious thing.
But they – some people at Reuters – loved that last statement. That became the big news. There was no news here. The only news is that we’re committed to the handset business, and we’re going to make it work.”
John Chen is a very candid person. He exudes great confidence in person, and is completely honest – maybe to a fault – when pressed for an answer. He is totally committed to making BlackBerry profitable again, and is not tied emotionally to one thing or another. Obviously as a business man, if you’re asked what would you do in that worse case scenario of handsets not making money, you’re not going to say, ‘Well I’ll keep making devices even if they’re burning a giant whole in the company’s pocket.’ That just wouldn’t make any sense.
He still believes the handset business will make money though. It was literally repeated about six times to us, so we were sure of it.
There are also so many other factors that go into what profitability will be considered for BlackBerry. Chen mentioned how aside from sales, the cost of parts, warranties, support, channeling inventory correctly, Foxconn, and other partners all contribute to how successful the handset business could be. All of these key parts are being examined “down to the dollar.”
The Z3 and Classic will be Chen’s first chance as head of BlackBerry to make money from phones, so this new approach is definitely good to see. This isn’t a one-time review either. They’re keeping a real close eye on BlackBerry’s money, and where it going and coming from.
John Sims mentioned during the press Q&A today that the BlackBerry “executive team meets every two weeks to look at different metrics.” There is real-time measurement of how the company is doing in each one of the four key aspects by Chen and co. Sims added that there isn’t really a point of no return for sales though, but BlackBerry will keep monitoring the business and keep making devices unless it doesn’t make sense to do so from a business standpoint. Which, again, is basic logic, and may never happen if they can find a way to successfully make some dough.
Money runs the world, and keeps it going. BlackBerry is no different. It’s refreshing to see executives address the issues head on, instead of trying to deflect questions or shy away from tough answers. After today’s chat, it’s quite clear their plan is set, and it’s all about execution.
And that’s what 2014 may end up being. The year of execution for BlackBerry. It’s do or die time in Waterloo.