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Q&A with BlackBerry’s New Devices Chief

DEVICES / 05.09.16 / Eric Lai

BlackBerry is well respected as the gold standard in mobile security. With the combination of its BB10 devices and now the most secure Android device, PRIV, BlackBerry is able to offer consumers, enterprises and governments with more choice than ever. That’s one of the key focus areas for new Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for Devices, Ralph Pini. His name should be familiar to BlackBerry watchers. Pini has been with BlackBerry for 4 years, after his company, Paratek Microwave Inc., was acquired in 2012, and he became Vice President for Radio Frequency Technology. A senior technologist who helped oversee the creation of one of the most popular mobile phones of all time, Pini will report to BlackBerry Executive Chairman and CEO, John Chen.

Inside BlackBerry spoke with Ralph about his new role and what he hopes to accomplish.

What will be your priority for the devices business?

Pini: The shifts and disruptions taking place in enterprise mobility today all signal great opportunity for BlackBerry to grow its customer base. I’m focused on three critical components to drive that. One, expanding on choice: we’re continuing to support customers who rely on BB10 even as we make more options available to those companies transitioning to Android. Two, leveraging security: more companies are adopting BYOD and enterprise fleet strategies that are creating enormous endpoint security challenges for IT – no one is better positioned to solve these challenges than BlackBerry, whether it is with BB10 or Android. Three, building on the BlackBerry pedigree. As governments and enterprises confront these new user-driven dynamics and demands in mobility, BlackBerry is uniquely positioned to elevate Android as a more viable, hardened option to meet the demands of government and enterprise customers who need the highest levels of security. The bottom line, I want to give enterprise decision-makers everything they need to define and implement their EMM strategy.

Where did you work prior to joining BlackBerry?

Pini: I most recently served as the President and CEO at Paratek Microwave Inc., a company acquired by BlackBerry in 2012 which focuses on creating adaptive radio-frequency technology to improve mobile-handset call quality and battery life. There I was responsible for developing and commercializing Adaptive Tunable technologies to improve RF performance of wireless devices. I also held various positions within Motorola Inc., including Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Mobile Cellular Group. I was instrumental in the development and creation of the many iconic products at Motorola, including the Motorola RAZR. Also while at Motorola, I ran the EMEA operations, making this business unit a significant contributor to the financial success of the Motorola Mobile Group.

How will that previous experience help in this new role?

Pini: I have worked in the global wireless industry for over four decades and have broad experiences across GSM, CDMA, and UMTS platforms, in addition to management experience. As I have been a member of the BlackBerry family since 2012, I am well versed in the strategic priorities of the business and in ways to integrate newly acquired companies to generate innovative products and services. Additionally, as I was a critical member of the team behind many Motorola products, including RAZR, I have extensive knowledge of product design and customer needs.

What will be your initial focus and what is the biggest challenge for the device business?

Pini: My initial focus will be on customers, carriers and partners as each is a crucial component to achieving device profitability, while also expanding distribution beyond BlackBerry’s traditional channels. We are working on delivering innovation and new products that we hope will exceed expectations while still delivering the gold standard of security that is synonymous with BlackBerry, and ultimately drive the growth of our business.

BlackBerry is expanding beyond the typical smartphone to include the company’s Radar device for the trucking industry and other IoT-related devices. Will generating new sources of revenue from these non-traditional devices help make the device business profitable?

Pini: We are focused on meeting current demands in the marketplace such as the most secure end-to-end mobile platform; and anticipating new demands before they emerge such as securing all the endpoints in an Internet of Things world. Device profitability will follow but devices themselves will be only one driver in this strategy. The technologies we are innovating to propel new facets of IoT, such as the BlackBerry Radar device, together with the enormous opportunity we see in licensing our software technologies, which could include everything from the VKB (virtual keyboard) to a more secure Android operating system, will greatly expand on the definition of “device,” and enhance the value we bring our customers.

About Eric Lai