Canadian Manufacturing

BlackBerry CEO more confident smartphone maker can be saved

John Chen said odds of Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone firm surviving now sit around 80 per cent

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif.—BlackBerry Ltd. chief executive John Chen says the chances of the smartphone firm surviving have improved and now puts the odds at 80 per cent.

After more than half a year in the leadership role, Chen offered the more optimistic view for the future of the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology company while speaking at the Code technology conference in California.

Previously he’d placed the odds of survival closer to a 50-50 chance.

“I am quite confident that we’ll be able to save the patient,” he told conference attendees.

Chen was hired last November to shake up the struggling BlackBerry operations after his success in turning software company Sybase into a profitable operation focused on mobile business technology.

While he concedes BlackBerry still has a lot of problems, he said the company isn’t dead, even though some outside data has suggested more trouble ahead.

New figures released by research agency International Data Corp. suggest the company’s presence is dwindling, with market share expected to drop below one per cent this year.

Handset shipment volumes are also projected to tumble nearly 50 per cent to 9.7 million units, the IDC report said.

Despite the fading presence of BlackBerry phones, the handset business is still a priority, Chen said, even though he’s not emotionally tied to keeping it alive.

“I’ll be able to create a lot of value for our shareholders even without the handset business, but I think with the handset business there is a chance to even create more,” he said.

“I know a plan to make money on the handsets and the market will have to tell me whether that’s a business I should or should not be in.”

Asked by conference moderator Walt Mossberg whether BlackBerry plans to make handsets with the Android operating system, Chen declined to comment.

However, he also didn’t rule out the possibility of reaching a deal with Google Inc. to support Android, which runs on popular devices like the Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s Galaxy phones and the HTC Corp.’s One.

“If there’s enough money on the table then maybe we’ll do something about that,” Chen said.

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