BlackBerry CEO Sees Physical Keyboards As Key To Recovery


CEO John Chen expects BlackBerry to return to profitability by March 2016

Recently appointed BlackBerry CEO John Chen has reportedly suggested that the majority of the struggling manufacturer’s future handsets will feature a physical keyboard as part of its plan to target business customers.

Speaking to the Financial Times at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Chen said he expects BlackBerry to be profitable by the end of March 2016, thanks to a recovery plan focussed on high-end smartphones for businesses, BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and QNX embedded software and connected cars.

The firm recently posted huge quarterly losses of £2.7 billion after an asset write down, but although shareholders responded positively to the apparent implementation of a coherent roadmap to recovery, Chen has said one of his main priorities is to halt losses in BlackBerry’s devices business.

BlackBerry keyboard love

BlackBerry 9720 tiltedTo this end, he has appointed former HTC and Sony Ericsson executive Ron Louk as BlackBerry’s head of devices and agreed a joint-manufacturing deal with Foxconn to create handsets for emerging markets where BlackBerry phones are still seen as desirable.

In more developed countries, BlackBerry is hoping to attract the government and corporate customers that have traditionally favoured its services, with handsets and applications. It is likely these will have keyboards.

This focus might help explain why BlackBerry is suing Ryan Seacrest-backed startup Typo, which has created a physical keyboard accessory for the iPhone 5 and 5S. BlackBerry alleges that the keyboard infringes its patents. Chen alluded to the lawsuit, adding that the company should do more with its catalogue of 44,000 patents – a portfolio that is widely seen as one of its most valuable assets.

Chen also expressed his hopes for QNX Software Systems, which it acquired four years ago and provides the basis for the BlackBerry 10 operating system. Chen wants to see QNX more widely used in the embedded software market. A number of cars featuring QNX have been shown off at CES and BlackBerry is confident it can establish a market lead despite competition from the likes of Google.

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