John Chen: Does the New Face of BlackBerry Look to Android for Help?

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BlackBerry seems to be in the news on a daily bases, and the only thing that is a constant at the company is that there is continual change – and it does not matter if you were a CEO, board member, engineer, or stockperson – things they are a changing at Blackberry. With new management in place, and over a year in delays, new BB10 phones were launched early this year, both QWERTY and Touchscreen models, but they could not save the once proud company. For Sales signs went up, but not many buyers came calling, so sales signs came down, and CEO Thorsten Heins stepped (pushed) down, and enter "turnaround artist" John S. Chen for CEO and Prem Watsa, from Fairfax Financial, taking over as lead director on the board.

Kevin, at CrackBerry, was able to sit down and speak one-on-one with Mr. Chen – who has barely had time to warm the CEO's chair, but he made it quite clear that BlackBerry is here to stay:

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BlackBerry is an iconic company. I do not want it to be sold at an artificially low price. I want to keep it in Canada. Companies go through challenging times. With the right financial strategy, business strategy, management team and with the legion of fans that BlackBerry has around the world we can turn this around and build real value for shareholders.

Kevin had proposed several interesting questions to Mr. Chen, and one of them has to do with switching to Android for their operating platform. I will give you some of the highlights from their conversation.

Mr. Chen said that he has been a long time BlackBerry user, but he has used other devices as well:

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I have used all kinds of devices because of the businesses I have been in. At Sybase we did a lot of software business across the BlackBerry/RIM devices, Android devices, iPhone devices, and even Linux. The only smartphone that I have never used to gain a lot of experience with is Palm, but every other device I used.

Mr. Chen is also an "interim" CEO, and Kevin asked him exactly what that meant in terms of how long he would be CEO before he appoints the "permanent" CEO. Mr. Chen basically said he was the CEO until he could find the right person – he needs to "figure out their business strategy," and then go organize it. He said, "I'll decide how interim is interim."

Kevin finally got down to the question we, as an Android Community website, were all waiting to hear:

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Following up on the word "software", one the of the questions that has been raised a lot in the past 24 hours is in regards to BlackBerry's software of choice moving forward. Is BlackBerry 10 still the play, or could we see BlackBerry adopting something like Android going forward?

Mr. Chen said it was far too "premature" for him to make an informed statement so early into his tenure as CEO:

Whatever is the right thing for the business, you need to preserve the reason why BlackBerry is around. I think just jumping to an Android without a thought through of why BlackBerry needs to be around and what makes us relevant and all that, before I answer that question, jumping to anything is inappropriate. You'll find that I'm a little bit more thoughtful from a marketing perspective then to just go somewhere. I'm not that kind of person. I've only been on the clock now for almost 24 hours — I think that if I made those statements right now conclusively, somebody should pull me out and shoot me.

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Finally, on the topic of quitting the handset business and concentrating on the software side, Mr. Chen had this to say:

I have to say this Kevin, and you know this very well… what is BlackBerry without the device? The question is, can we do more in that? It's not about let's not do this and do that. Sometimes it's not business sensible to make those statements.

Mr. Chen summed it up – he is a "very loyal person," so the BlackBerry customers and employees who are loyal to BlackBerry are high on list. But having said that, he also reminded us that he needs to run a company and there is always a "tug-of-war" between the two.

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So Mr. Chen did not rule out the possibility of switching to Android – could this be one of those "tug-of wars" that he was describing? Let us know in the comments or on Google+ what you think of Blackberry making their devices with Android running the operation system…BlackBerries and KitKat, an interesting combination.

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Senior Writer

Cory has written for Androidheadlines since 2013 and is a Senior Writer for the site. Cory has a background in Accounting and Finance and worked for the FBI in the past. From there he pursued his Masters in English Literature. Cory loves Android and Google related technology and specializes in Smartphone Comparisons on our site. Contact him at [email protected]

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