CES 2019: BlackBerry boss claims connected devices are ‘more important than phones’

In brief

  • Internet of Things is our focus now, BlackBerry boss says
  • John Chen joined the company in 2013

BlackBerry is set to leave its smartphone legacy ever further behind as the company seeks future success in connected devices, according to the company’s chief executive. When asked about the future of BlackBerry’s smartphone business, John Chen, who joined BlackBerry in 2013, said: “I would prefer to call it the smart device strategy.” “Our strategy is to embed our software, security and privacy technology into IoT [Internet of Things] devices, and phones just happen to be one, small part of it,” he told i as part of a roundtable discussion at tech expo CES.

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen made the remarks at CES in Las Vegas (Photo: ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

“By heritage, [phones’] emotional value is high, but the IoT devices are more important.” BlackBerry was an early leader in the nascent smartphone market during the early to mid-2000s, but soon lost ground to rivals Apple and Samsung.

Its sales peaked in 2011 with around 52m devices sold that year, but have steadily declined in the years since. The company’s global market share is now less that 0.0 per cent. Budget Chinese phone maker TCL bought the rights to sell devices under the BlackBerry brand in 2016 and it has since released two handsets, the KeyOne and Key2.

The growing trend for companies releasing foldable phones, as spearheaded by Chinese firm Royole and South Korean giant Samsung, is unlikely to extend to BlackBerry’s roster, Mr Chen admitted.

CES 2019: BlackBerry boss claims connected devices are ‘more important than phones’ From the cutting edge of 2007, BlackBerry’s tech star has waned in recent years (Photo: Getty)

“I am no longer in hardware technology, so if somebody wanted to build a foldable phone, the technology is likely to come from the Chinese or Samsung – people who do displays,” he said. “If somebody comes to me and says they want to build a foldable phone using BlackBerry software and name and distribute it on a worldwide basis, we would definitely be interested.

But if you tell me two years from today, ‘I don’t have a foldable phone and everybody else does’, would that upset us?

No, not really.”

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