John Chen will remain BlackBerry’s chief executive through at least November 2023, the company announced today. BlackBerry credits Chen with reversing what once appeared to be doomed prospects by eliminating the company’s storied mobile hardware business and shifting its primary focus to “investments in cybersecurity and embedded software that today are delivering the vast majority of the company’s revenue and growth.”
In today’s press release announcing his contract extension, BlackBerry’s board of directors expressed “tremendous confidence” in Chen, saying “John engineered a successful turnaround and has the company repositioned to apply its strengths and assets to the Enterprise of Things, an emerging category with massive potential.”
Chen himself apparently feels that BlackBerry has completed its turnaround and successfully pulled itself out of the dire circumstances it faced when he came on in 2013. The company has been beating financial expectations in recent quarters and 2018 looks promising.
“I would not call us in a turnaround mode anymore,” Chen told Bloomberg TV in January. “We make money, we generate growth in the right areas.” Those areas are primarily cybersecurity and enterprise. We’re very good in the cybersecurity, enterprise for regulated industries in particular like the banks and the governments and the healthcare.”
“The next leg of our growth is with auto,” Chen said in that interview, which coincided with news of a deal between BlackBerry and Baidu to jointly develop self-driving vehicle technology utilizing BlackBerry’s QNX platform. QNX will serve as “the foundation for Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving open platform.” Also in January, BlackBerry announced Jarvis, a cloud-based cybersecurity product that can scan automobile code for vulnerabilities.
“We’re going to go beyond auto and go into the embedded world — what I call the EoT or IoT world,” Chen said. “It’s a huge market, and it’s growing, and we’re very fortunate that we can play well in it.” Those who long for the signature BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard can still get their fix from smartphones that carry the BlackBerry name but are actually manufactured by other companies. Not many people are buying those, however, which makes BlackBerry’s exit from mobile look like the right call.