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New BlackBerry CEO, $1 billion cash infusion renew enterprise customer optimism

With BlackBerry's major shakeup this week, IT analysts believe a new CEO and more cash will help the troubled company head in the right direction.

Industry experts view this week's news that BlackBerry will have a new interim CEO as well as a $1 billion infusion of new cash as a positive for the much-maligned mobile giant.

John Chen, formerly of Sybase, Inc., will take over as interim CEO from Thorsten Heins, who will resign after spending nearly two years at the helm, the company reports.

[Chen] is maniacally focused on execution and will 100% focus on value for the customer.
Bob EganMobile Analyst

Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, the Toronto-based company that agreed to purchase BlackBerry earlier this year, will provide that new cash along with other investors instead of a purchase. Fairfax previously owned 10% of BlackBerry, and as a result of this deal will have the right to own up to 16% of the company's shares.

Fairfax CEO Prem Watsa, a former member of BlackBerry's board of directors, is set to return as lead director and chair of the Compensation, Nomination and Governance Committee. Chen will serve while BlackBerry searches for a permanent CEO, according to the company. He is presently a director with Wells Fargo & Company and the Walt Disney Company.

Blackberry loyalists regain optimism  

Amidst continuing coverage of  enterprise IT moving away from BlackBerry's platform in favor of iOS, Android and other options, this news is a welcome sign for those who still believe in BlackBerry.

"BlackBerry is not going away anytime soon," said Jack Gold, principal analyst and founder of J. Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass. "This should give the enterprise a better feeling with this additional investment."

Chen appears to be a good choice, according to Bob Egan, a mobile market analyst and founder and CEO of Falmouth, Mass.-based Sepharim Group. He believes Chen could be in a long-term decision making role at BlackBerry, despite his  interim title.

"BlackBerry now has leadership that is very focused on systems," Egan said. "[Chen] is a good leader…he is maniacally focused on execution and will 100% focus on value for the customer."

Egan believes Chen will look across his new management team and "get the right chairs on the deck" to move the company forward.

BlackBerry still makes quality products, Gold said, and he specifically mentioned the Z30 smartphone as "a great device."

"It's an end user issue," Gold said. "Enterprise goes where the end user goes. The question is, can they bring people back?"

The company should focus more on the things it can do well, including systems and solutions, as opposed to trying to make its name once again in the device market, Egan said.

"Neither Android or Apple have the system design down that meets the needs of large enterprises," Egan said. "Chen is a complete outsider to the old way things worked at BlackBerry. Their approach needs to be to become the system of record."

Heins is expected to leave BlackBerry after a tumultuous 2013 that included news of a second quarter 2014 loss of nearly $1 billion as a result of unsold Z10 devices. Experts believed the device failed because it didn't contain features customers were used to, including the classic QWERTY keyboard.

There was positive news in recent weeks after the delayed launch of BlackBerry Messenger for Android and iOS, with the company claiming an increase from 60 million users to 80 million users worldwide.  

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