BlackBerry CEO John Chen sees corporate recovery ahead

by: Matthew BensonDecember 18, 2015
5 38

blackberry priv review aa (22 of 32)

For the better part of 2015, the BlackBerry Priv has been in Android news headlines. Originally known by the working name “Venice” the device – before it was even confirmed – was already the stuff of mobile marvel and mystery. It was the first Android handset by one of the industry’s most prolific companies. It was a curved AMOLED device from a company other than Samsung or LG. And it was a slider with a full physical keyboard in a time when time itself had seemingly forgotten the form factor still existed. The latest news? It may be part of a potential panacea.

Speaking with investors earlier today, CEO John Chen not only highlighted the praise reviewers have showered on his company’s new product, but also explained that – due to strategic device strategy – the company is now on the verge of reversing the very hardware-related losses that once sought to spell doom for the the formerly dominant OEM’s future.

The optimistic news came amid BlackBerry’s Q3 earnings call, with the CEO stating that:

My first goal is to get us into a break-even position with the device business, because you really couldn’t do anything strategically with a business that continues to lose money…We’re in that ballpark now.

Thanks in part to revenue from the acquisition of a software company announced back in September, BlackBerry was able to cut non-GAAP losses to $15 million during the company’s third fiscal quarter. This in turn, resulted in a loss of 3 cents per share, as opposed to the estimate Wall Street had been predicting: 14 cents per share. Revenue was up at $557 million, well beyond the $489 million analysts had anticipated.

blackberry priv review aa (13 of 32)

With respect to total unit sales, BlackBerry reported sales of approximately 700,000 units, however it is noticeably less than the 900,000 units that some analysts had been expecting. It should be noted that at launch, AT&T was the sole carrier offering the device in the USA, and it has yet to be released in many markets around the world.

Mr. Chen explained that in switching to Android, a cost-savings break has been added to the equation of Priv production, “because we don’t have to do everything ourselves in the operating system world.”

At the time of publication, BlackBerry stock was up 10.38%, to $8.61 per share.

The story of success

While sales shy of even one million units might seem small to some in light of Huawei’s recent announcement of 100 million devices shipped in 2015, or any random Samsung quarterly earnings call, it actually means a great deal to BlackBerry. Last quarter the Canadian OEM indicated it had only managed to sell around 800,000 units of its BB10-based handsets. While this means sales actually further declined from Q2 to Q3, should the Priv take off, these numbers could increase when it comes time for Q4 results.

blackberry priv review aa (1 of 32)

It is also important to note that the Priv is also a very expensive phone, typically retailing for around $700, whereas the average sale price of hardware last quarter was just $240. BlackBerry therefore stands to make much more on each Priv sold than it would have in the recent past, especially in light of John Chen’s comments about lower production costs.

Indeed the company’s fortunes seem to be looking up, a dramatic change compared with the somewhat sullen story the company was suggesting just months ago: Just prior to the Priv’s release, Mr. Chen had indicated it might be his company’s last hardware offering were it not to have performed well in the market. Now there is ample opportunity for more to come.

Common sense or logical lag?

While many the world over had been incredulous at BlackBerry’s insistence on remaining true to its origins instead of embracing Android years ago, the switch to Android itself was not necessarily the “common sense” impulse it was often labeled as. The OEM employees individuals who are specifically tasked with creating BB10 hardware and software. CEO Chen has indicated future development of BB10 is essentially finished, with the company now having switched gears to Android. This means not only potential job losses, but – for some – a betrayal of the very values and origins of the company itself.


In many ways, BlackBerry’s slow transition is a North American parallel to that which Europe’s OEM darling, Nokia, has also had to deal with. With its Symbian OS having severely declined over the years due to falling sales, Nokia opted to align itself with Microsoft, a decision many felt was a poor one. When it was later announced that Microsoft planned to purchase Nokia’s device division entirely, many claimed its then-CEO, Steven Elop, was a planted trojan horse.

Since his appointment in November 2013, BlackBerry’s CEO has made it a priority to reduce costs and get the company in a favorable market position. He took the reigns after the company’s co-founders were frequently criticized as running it into the ground.

Wrap Up

With an optimistic view of the future, it looks as if BlackBerry’s immediate situation is safe. The question becomes what will happen next. Future success largely depends on the release of dynamic hardware that sets the company apart from its competitors. Samsung, for example, has won approval for government-related contracts. Privacy and security in and of themselves are now larger priorities for many OEMs, not just BlackBerry.

There is also equal concern in the hardware itself. Some have already asked just how relevant a narrow physical keyboard (as opposed to that of the BlackBerry Passport) is on a smartphone in this day and age. Likewise, Android users have – arguably – long since grown accustomed to virtual keyboards. While BlackBerry could rest solely on its existing user base, in order to make a genuine recovery and move beyond, it will be necessary to win more people over.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

For a device all about security and protection, the Priv is not privy to a fingerprint sensor, unlike the Nexus 6P (pictured).

That the Priv lacks a fingerprint sensor, that it opted for a Snapdragon 808 SoC instead of the 810, that it won’t get Marshmallow until next year, and that it has released just months before next year’s heavy hitting flagships are gearing up for launch are all valid criticisms of the hardware handset. The high price is also a debatable, resistant factor.

We are eager to hear your thoughts on this story. Does 700,000 units sold make BlackBerry’s success solidified? Would you expect more? Less? How do you think it will perform next quarter? Leave us your comments below!



  • jpswain

    If RIM expects to be a force in the hardware industry again, it had better develop a business device that bridges the gap between cellphone and laptop computer. A hybrid computer that can dual boot Android and windows 10, whereby a photo can be dragged and dropped from Android into a PowerPoint presentation would have serious demand.

    • nono

      why dual boot?
      Is a waste of space.

  • jasonlowr

    Gave the BB priv a chance and nope, didn’t prove the keyboard to be useful. Had my first ever windows phone called the Dell venue pro which is exactly the same as my BB Priv and both proven to be useless, especially for the keyboard.

    The keyboard makes the phone to be bulky, especially with the case on. I just dont get the keyboard at all.

    Also the software is no where near fluid at all- it’s buggy as hell.

    Im really starting to regret with my purchase.

    • Bernice Wicklund

      that is nice phone …..

    • systemupdate

      I heard the software was buggy in the beginning but that they fixed it with some updates, didn’t they?

      • not there yet

        The Priv still feel bellow the other flagship (S6, G4, Z5)

        • 4ron

          Not to me, it isn’t. In what way? I own both a Priv and a Galaxy S6 Edge. The Samsung has terrible battery life and weak reception. That is common knowledge.

          • 5tron

            Priv battery life is weak. Wayys weaker than the S6 Edge+.
            Reading mail & browse web for 30 minutes, and I lost 25% battery.
            With Galaxy S6 Edge+, I only lost about 14% for that 30 minutes activity

          • 4ron

            By 3 pm with mostly email usage both my wife and I experience low battey power on our Samsungs. We went back to AT&T and traded up her S6 Edge to an iPhone. AT&T admits the problem with that device.

          • Mana Lucu

            Actually I believe what 5tron said more than you (@4ron:disqus ).
            You’re disqus profile show that you troll any site with bb priv article.
            You were bias, you want priv success.

          • 4ron

            I am just giving the facts. Blackberry has to earn its place in the mobile hierarchy.

          • John Doe

            Turn NFC OFF

  • Thank you Hhhh

    Thanks for the info.
    I’ll check the Android Police.

    I really feel weird that AA would suggest an Amazon tablet that were android but not true android device, and can’t be installed a custom ROM at all (wall garden android device). And AA also seems suggesting the Priv very heavy, although the Priv is still not as good as the other android flagship.

  • robert fish

    I love how the keyboard is being used as a scrollpad !!!

  • wyzy wyg

    Fingerprint sensor are for NSAPhone, Spyphone and it is easy to hacked by anyone capable..
    BlackBerry offer a genuine picture password method. It is very secure and simple & It’s fun & easy to remember how to log.
    Samsung is approuved because Knox is secure by BlackBerry.
    BlackBerry is working like a very dynamic Star-up with tons of new softwares and hardwares in many domain…In medical, military, banking, government…. like :
    Smartphones : devices and end-to-end solutions,
    Car infotainment with QNX which is a clear leader in automotive software.
    QNX has over a 50 percent market share in the infotainment space.
    The majority of automobile manufacturers utilize QNX.
    And Self driving cars ! Be there, at the CES 2016, next month.

    • QNX is hype

      Who cares about QNX in car??
      I want Android Auto in car

      • NamelessStar

        Funny part android auto and apple car play are layers over qnx so no matter how it’s seen BlackBerry wins on it

        • qnx bla bla bla

          The real thing is….
          Apple car play & Android auto CAN BE RUN on QNX….
          BUT Apple car play & android auto DO NOT NEED QNX to run…. It just an option….

          and since android auto is more mature than QNX.
          Nobody gives a damn to QNX, and BB sold QNX very cheap, and loosing money.
          so, who really give a damn about QNX?

          It’s a game over.
          BB better close the QNX & BB10 to save money.

        • wyzy wyg

          Androïd phone can be hacked and hundred of millions dollars can be lost…
          Read last year story about Sony loosing hundred of millions dollars after being hacked… Sony stopped using their androïd phone and use instead BB.
          Why ? BB is secure. So what ! After all, this is only money
          If our car is being hacked while we drive, it could cost the lifes of our beloved.
          Cars are not smartphones… It’s more than only hardware & software.
          QNX OS for Safety complies with the ISO 26262 automotive functional safety standard and has a proven history in safety-critical systems, making it ideally suited for collision warning, surround view, and a variety of other ADAS applications… Unlike Androïd.

  • derek

    I thought the phone looked great, high quality and many features.

    • darak

      You thought wrong.
      The phone is a compromise of BB10 & android
      It bring the worst of both world.

      • derek

        well no one cares what u think

      • John Doe

        You are wrong .. and if Android is soo bad as you state, why are you even on this site??
        Oh ya, trolling ..

        • derek

          He is an apple fukboi

  • Karly Johnston

    ikr… if they sold 700k of a $700 phone they would have WAAY higher hardware sales. It was mostly CBs hoarding the last BB10 devices sold.

  • lrd555

    Don’t hold your breath. BB just might be the 1st Apple victim of 2016. Followed by Sony, HTC and then Motorola. It’s only a matter of time before they start dropping like flies.

    • BB die

      BB sold LESS THAN a million unit each quarter, and the number of sales going down and down each quarter
      Sony, HTC, Motorola sold MORE THAN 6 millions phone each quarter.

      BB will die soon,
      Sony, HTC, Motorola…. still survive

      • John Doe

        BB and HTC have the same issues.. HTC has not made any $$ off of their phone division for so long it is questionable
        why they are still in the phone business at all..
        When you look at it, they are only alive because they have other income streams that keep them afloat ..
        I actually see BB doing better than HTC over the next few years if they can re-ignite the businessgovernment sector to buy
        their new android based phones. What the industry wants these days are phones that can best secure business and
        personal data. If BB can show that their new phones have what it takes to secure user data, then they stand to last longer in the phone sector than HTC which does not bring almost anything new to the table.
        Sony has said that they are getting out of the phone business, so I am not sure how you feel that Sony will
        stay relevant …?
        Motorola, has the backing of Lenovo, and they are just moving all of the Lenovo phone products over to Motorola, so they should be Ok ..

    • Mr_Meee

      Here in Europe the first wave of innovative 4G smartphones my carrier sold didn’t include even one model of Apple smartphone. People in some parts of the world are very bullish about Apple’s tech claims, but there is a lot of hype as well. People are not as accepting of this hype as you might believe. Listen long enough and you may find yourself simply repeating the words others have put in your mouth.

  • dannyR

    “With respect to total unit sales, BlackBerry reported sales of approximately 700,000 units…”

    This figure seems to have confused some bloggers, who have run off with a claim of that many Priv’s.
    Total unit sales are all BB’s models sold.

  • pseudo

    I’ve never owned a blackberry but I’m glad that they are surviving. I don’t like it when companies with interesting ideas die, it makes the market less exciting.

    • bb zombie

      Who said they were surviving?
      They were a walking ZOMBIES

      The only reason they see a increase of income this time is because they bought they competitor.
      Next quarter, there won’t be any massive increase of income anymore, unless they bought another company.

      • dannyR

        Sure, just buy a few tech-review sites, and turn this 700,000-Privs-sold misinformation into disinformation.

    • dannyR

      Yeah, keyboards. Who woulda thunk it?

      • Mr_Meee

        Yeah, who would have thought of touch enabled keyboards that act like touchscreens, but leave the whole screen open for viewing whatever you have on screen. And slip away out of sight when you pocket the device, and the device allows you to use a virtual keyboard instead, whenever you like. Not like the humble all touch concept which hasn’t really changed since 2007 and was born back in 2000, fifteen years old.

  • Ron

    The future growth of the company is about software, not devices.

  • John Doe

    700.000 units of BB Priv devices, not the total number of units BB sells (BB10+Android devices) or the following statement does not make sense ..
    “Last quarter the Canadian OEM indicated it had only managed to sell around 800,000 units of its BB10-based handsets”

    This would indicate that BB did not any BB Priv units ..
    You guys are not reading this correctly.. the 700k was the Priv only sales, not the combines BB device sales.
    Yes, the article seems like it needs to be better worded, as it is very misleading ..
    I am excited to see what happens to BB and it’s device arm of the company …. Over the last several years BB has
    re-focused itself as a software company and is posed to ‘hopefully’ dominate the IOT ecosystem which will be the next largest
    step in connected devices and stands to make the company huge sums of $$ if all goes to plan.
    Also, Ford has re-adopted their QNX s/w to power their latest My Ford Touch system which is a huge step from their last infotainment system which always got bad reviews. I was playing with it a fews weeks ago, and it has been much improved.
    Most car companies use the QNX system to power their infotainment systems, with added overlays to allow Android Auto and Apple Car ecosystems access to underlying tech.

  • djinn123

    Stop dissing the physical keyboard! It’s the only thing setting BB phones apart from the usual all-screen slabs! Plus, it serves a niche market who badly need a phys keyboard. So if you don’t like it then just don’t buy it!

  • TJ

    This piece of shit is in favor of backdoors in encryption. He decides to not work with Pakistan because of their surveillance but has no problems with the US programs. Screw him. Now I really hope they go under.

  • Reality Check

    Wrong information. They sold 700,000 devices which included Priv’s and other phones.