Meet John Chen, interim CEO of Blackberry

There’s an interview with John Chen, Blackberry’s new interim CEO on Crackberry.com that is quite interesting for those of us who are Blackberry watchers.

Chen is known in the business world as a “turnaround specialist” having been at the helm of the company formerly known as Sybase. His team was able to turn that company around, give it new direction and focus, and then sell it for a significantly increased share price.

Conceerning Blackberry, what most of us want to know are a few things like:

1. Does he intend to shut down the hardware (handset) division? Apparently not. He is quoted as saying “People are asking me about handsets — ‘are you going to get out of the handset business’ — and that’s really ridiculous of them to say that. I don’t even know what that means and on top of that, the majority of all our revenue and our customer interaction is with handsets, so I’m not quite sure why anybody would say that on account of a ‘big picture’ thing.”

So apparently he thinks unique BB handsets are integral to the uniqueness of the Blackberry service.

2. Does he intend to jettison BB10? His response: “It’s way too early for me to make an informed statement on that. It would be very, very premature. Whatever is the right thing for the business, you need to preserve the reason why BlackBerry is around. I think just jumping to an Android without a thought through of why BlackBerry needs to be around and what makes us relevant and all that, before I answer that question, jumping to anything is inappropriate.”

I take that as a qualified “No. For now we’ll stick with what we have.”

3. How long does he expect to be “interim” CEO? His response: “My job is really to figure and focus on all the strategic things that the company is facing immediately, today, and also in the longer term — three, five years out. So that’s the kind of horizon I have and what will occupy most of my time.”

4. What kind of person is he looking for to take on the permanent CEO position? Response: “I’m looking for a software person…somebody who understands the services side of the equation also. And I know you’d love to see us increase our marketing effort, so I’m looking for somebody who can help me with really reaching more people.”

This suggests he wants to focus even more clearly on enterprise solutions and services, but doesn’t want to give up on the consumer side either (more marketing.)

In closing he characterizes himself as a “a very loyal person. So your customers and employees who have attached their loyalties are really high on my list. So I’m going to do everything I possibly can to make sure I repay all their loyalty. I believe loyalty goes both ways.”

This is certainly music to the ears of BB loyalists, because it implies listening to customer concerns and responding to their needs “going forward”.

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