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Tempest in a Teacup



My appearance at the Code/Mobile conference created a minor furor yesterday. To my dismay, the media focused on a few of my comments while ignoring many others. That whipped up some commentators into a frenzy, including, unfortunately, a few of our loyal fans.


Here’s the context I think that may have been missed yesterday. First, I have 100% confidence in our new PRIV smartphone. Not only will it bring BlackBerry’s strong privacy DNA to the Android platform, but PRIV will deliver top-of-the-line features for your maximum productivity, including an oversized screen and, underneath it, a smooth sliding mechanism that unveils the iconic BlackBerry keyboard. And all the business and recreational apps that you could ever want courtesy of our good partner, Google.

Besides all of the hard work that our engineers in Waterloo and Ottawa have done to make PRIV a first-class hero smartphone, I am convinced that there is an under-served segment that PRIV can ably fill. Enterprises are increasingly aware of the security and privacy risks that their mobile devices pose. So are consumers. Moreover, the Android smartphone market is massive – 1.2 billion users globally today, according to IDC, growing to 1.53 billion over the next 4 years. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that BlackBerry will find a strong audience here.

Finally, anyone who has been watching closely what I’ve been trying to do at BlackBerry has surely heard me say that we would not stay in the device business if we were not profitable. This is nothing new, and I’ve repeated this many times recently. That said, we are doing everything possible to make our devices profitable. We are committed to both the success of PRIV as well as supporting governments and other customers that demand the security and performance of our BlackBerry 10 devices.


I’ve also consistently said that BlackBerry’s future is in taking our security expertise into the software arena. It’s what our enterprise customers want, and it also helps continue our transformation into a multi-platform provider that can secure the mobile enterprise – regardless of type of device. We’ve taken many steps in recent months to augment our software portfolio.

PRIV by BlackBerry profile open and closed

I’m energized by the acquisitions of WatchDox and AtHoc, and our pending acquisition of Good Technology – all leaders in their respective spaces (secure document sharing, emergency alerts, and mobile device management).

Security and Privacy

Despite my optimism, I’m a realist at heart. It’s the engineer in me. It’s also why I don’t have the patience to sugarcoat. So if you heard me say yesterday that security-wise, the latest Blackphone is now in the same conversation as our devices, you know it’s not idle flattery.

At the same time, I mentioned several features coming in PRIV (left) that will help it rise to the very top security-wise, even among secure Android phones. There’s the unique key ‎in the chipset of every PRIV smartphone to authenticate the Android OS, so users can be confident their PRIV is not running malicious firmware that could violate their privacy or security. There’s our ability to patch vulnerabilities much faster than other Android smartphone makers, and other features I didn’t mention. It’s why I firmly believe PRIV will be MORE resilient than everything else.

I’m enthusiastic about the coming launch of PRIV. I personally love this phone, and, judging by the reaction out there, I think many of you will, too.

John Chen

About John Chen

John Chen is Executive Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of BlackBerry. Appointed in November 2013, John led BlackBerry’s turnaround stabilizing the company’s financial position, ensuring its viability, and pivoting its operations from consumer hardware to enterprise software. Today the company takes advantage of the current growth opportunities in IoT and Cybersecurity and is pioneering the convergence of these two markets.

John is a distinguished business leader and proven turnaround executive with over 40 years of engineering and management experience. Prior to joining BlackBerry, John served as Chairman and CEO of Sybase Inc. where he re-invented the company and achieved 55 consecutive quarters of profitability during his 15-year tenure.

Recognized as a thought leader and as a respected voice in foreign policy, John has testified before Congress on U.S.–China trade relations and was appointed by U.S. President George W. Bush to serve on the President's Export Council. In 2006, he was appointed co-chair of the Secure Borders and Open Doors Advisory Committee. Additionally, John chaired the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), served on the Board of the National Committee on U.S. China Relations since 2012, and has been a member of the Committee of 100 since 1997 and its Chairman from 2009-2011.

John graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). John has an honorary professorship from Shanghai University, and honorary doctorates from San Jose State University, City University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. John has received awards from the U.S.-Asia Institute, the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, the California-Asia Business Council, and the U.S.-Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation.

John served on the Board of Directors for The Walt Disney Company (2004-2019) and Wells Fargo & Co. (2006-2018) and as a trustee of Caltech (2008-2022). John is an Advisory Board member of the US Chamber China Center. He is also active in the not-for-profit community, and is a board member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, member of CFR, national trustee of The First Tee and Governor of the San Francisco Symphony.