BlackBerry CEO: We have a lot of problems, but we're not dead

The always vocal John Chen ups his chances of survival to 80 percent from 50 percent.

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BlackBerry CEO John Chen at a press roundtable session at the Consumer Electronics Show. Roger Cheng/CNET

The always-candid BlackBerry CEO John Chen just upped his company's chances for survival.

Chen, speaking at Recode's Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., said he gives BlackBerry an 80 percent chance for success. That's a lot higher than his previous estimate, which he said was a 50-50 chance of success.

"Yeah, we have problems, but it's not dead," Chen said. "I'm confident we will be able to save the patient."

BlackBerry is in the fight of its life as it struggles amid shrinking market share and continued losses. As a result of last year's failed bid to re-enter the consumer market for smartphones, it has shifted its focus to rely more on its business of serving big corporations and government agencies.

Chen was relatively candid for an executive, acknowledging that BlackBerry had to tap other platform ecosystems, but wouldn't go so far as to say it would create an Android smartphone.

He admitted the company, under previous CEO Thorsten Heins, got distracted by trying to add value to consumer smartphones.

"We cast our nets a little too broadly," he said. "The bigger play is in enterprise."

The new BlackBerrys will have larger screens, full physical keyboard, and the old productive features of its trademark messaging-centric smartphones, Chen said. They would be released around November, he added.

At the same time, he said he wasn't emotionally tied to any business, suggesting he would cut something if it didn't work.

Chen also weighed in on the company's decision to work on projects related to the Internet of Things, or the concept of every device being connected to each other and the Internet. He said it was critical to secure one's house -- otherwise you might never actually leave it if you get hacked.

On BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, he said it is easier to make money there selling virtual guides, stickers, and other goods. While BlackBerry maintains BBM is successful around the world, it has lost its popularity in more mature markets.

Chen draws from years in the enterprise business, with a particular focus on mobile. But he couldn't help by to joke about how he got his role.

"Am I the most qualified person?" he asked. "No, I guess I'm the only one they could find."

About the author

Connie Guglielmo is Editor-in-Chief of CNET News, where she oversees the global news team. She's a veteran business tech journalist who has worked in and around Silicon Valley, with stints at MacWEEK, Wired, Upside, Interactive Week, Bloomberg News and Forbes.

Roger Cheng

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan. See full bio

 

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