BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen, in an interview with the New York Times Bits blog:
“My view of BlackBerry is broad,” Mr. Chen said in an interview following a speech at the Oasis conference here. “I’ll let the software determine what kind of device we make.” This could mean embedding Blackberry communications in other products, or making new ones, and forming partnerships, he said.
It’s a seemingly big change for BlackBerry, which became famous with its raised keyboard phone, but is getting hurt in that business. Mr. Chen, who earlier saved Sybase, a database company, by moving new businesses over several years, thinks creating assets apart from phones are key to BlackBerry.
BlackBerry has to spend some money on marketing to ensure it has a customer profile, in preparation for the possibility that it returns to broad health. Mr. Chen said, however, that being in the consumer eye is not the priority at the moment.
For reassurance, he has turned to a most consumer-oriented showman who once found himself in a position similar to Mr. Chen.
“I watched Steve Jobs on YouTube, when he came back to Apple,” said Mr. Chen. “He got up and said, ‘I don’t have a new product, I’m insanely focused on my customer base.’ That’s me now.”
In Mr. Chen’s case, that is not consumers, but large, regulated enterprises and the government. The good news is, they pay more money. The hard news is, they want innovation, too.
I was onboard with Chen’s ideas until he started trying to say he was the next Steve Jobs…
But regardless of that comparison, he’s right about where he needs to focus. Focus on customers first, but can Blackberry innovate? That’s the big question that he’ll have to answer.