One word is all that is needed to define the public persona of BlackBerry CEO John Chen: optimistic. During an appearance Friday on Fox Business News, Chen answered questions pertaining to BlackBerry’s move into the Android ecosystem, and what it means for the future of the company. Since losing its dominant position in the mobile market to the emergence of touch screens on the likes of iOS and Android-powered smartphones, BlackBerry has been struggling to retain relevance and market share. No one, not even the CEO of the beleaguered company, denies the market’s response to this collaboration with Android will determine the path of the handset manufacturer.
This most recent upswing that has put BlackBerry back in the headlines started with the announcement that their next mobile phone will be the Android-powered Priv. In response to being asked if the Priv was a “Hail Mary” move to keep BlackBerry in the mobile business, Chen replied, “I’m going to let the markets tell me. Hail Mary is the wrong word, (this phone) has been planned for a couple of years” A Hail Mary tactic implies a last ditch effort, and Chen is stating that this is a well-planned out maneuver. In fact, back in 2013 when Chen took on the role of CEO, he made a point to not rule out a potential Android solution.
As CEO, playing the role of the consonant optimist about the company really is part of the job description, but Chen is a realist too. He is not denying that if the Priv fails, BlackBerry may be forced out of the phone game, he has said as much himself. Still Chen says, “We have every reason to believe this phone will be successful.” And why not? BlackBerry knows their weakness in the modern market has been their lack of a populated and well-rounded app selection. Joining forces with Android immediately eliminates that downfall. As well, BlackBerry’s security features set them apart from the offerings of other Android manufacturers. These features have been developed to cater directly to their target audience: enterprise.
It is true that the company is only a shadow of the powerhouse it once was, but it has never given up. Right now, BlackBerry has as good, if not a better chance than at any time in the past 5 years of reigniting interest in a once passionate fan base. Perhaps most telling of the company’s faith in its current direction: Chen says a whole range of products is already planned to follow the Priv. BlackBerry has certainly proven they don’t give up easily, and a lot of people are cheering on this latest effort. It will be interesting to see if it is all enough to usher in the bright future John Chen envisions.