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BlackBerry AGM 2023: CEO John Chen on Building Trust for Our ‘Converged’ Future (Video)

BlackBerry Executive Chairman & CEO John Chen spoke last week at the company’s Annual General Meeting, sharing his key message: The BlackBerry that was once synonymous with smartphones remains alive and well, busy creating the software that ensures the privacy, safety and security of all your connected devices — at work, home, and everywhere in-between.  

Chen’s enthusiasm was evident from the outset. “I'm very excited to be here and to really talk through where the company has been, and where the company is going.”

Chen has spent most of the past decade reshaping the company, shedding the last vestiges of its hardware-centric past while retooling the organization to address the challenges of an increasingly software-defined future. One major step in that process was Chen’s reorganizing the company in 2021 to form two distinct-yet-complementary business units: the IoT (Internet of Things) business unit to address the automotive and general embedded markets, and the Cybersecurity business unit that serves the enterprise IT market.

“The key point is, we've been (pursuing) this strategy of IoT and cybersecurity as two really high growth markets that will come together, to achieve the maximum potential of the ‘smart world,’” Chen explains. Chen’s vision of a smart world is the end-product of billions of secure, connected endpoints that range across the fields of communication, transportation, finance, healthcare, government, industry and defense, forming a digitized, AI-infused infrastructure that supports smart cities and entire economies.

BlackBerry’s BU Progress

Chen shared numerous proof points indicating recent success milestones for both business units.

The BlackBerry IoT BU:

  • BlackBerry’s QNX real-time operating system software is now embedded in over 235 million vehicles, up from 215 million a year ago.
  • The team has scored 94 new design wins in the past fiscal year, with 60 of those in the general embedded market (GEM).
  • BlackBerry IVY, an edge-to-cloud software platform for automakers and smart cities, now integrates with the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) cybersecurity technology, Cylance® AI.

The BlackBerry Cybersecurity BU:

  • BlackBerry’s unified endpoint management (UEM), critical event management (CEM), and secure communications software, all occupy leadership positions in terms of government and industry certifications.
  • BlackBerry’s next-gen cybersecurity, Cylance AI, which pioneered the AI cybersecurity market, boasts the industry’s largest malware database, comprised of billions of portable executables used to train the company’s seventh-generation AI and ML models.

As a result, BlackBerry counts 17 of the G20 nations as customers.

Fixing the “Trust Deficit”

As BlackBerry continues to chart a course for supporting the convergence of traditional IT environments with newly digitized operational technology, or OT, Chen cited warning signs indicating that the rising costs of cybercrime activity could impede the pace of adoption. This can be seen in industry forecasts, which indicate the hockey-stick growth curve in IoT endpoints could slow as organizations struggle against a rising tide of security threats.

Safeguarding that growth, and accelerating progress toward a converged IT, OT, and ultimately IoT landscape, has become BlackBerry’s overarching vision, Chen says, and one he is pleased to see is resonating with the marketplace.

“This has been the thesis of BlackBerry for many years, and I’m glad that we’re starting to feel the traction in the market.”

With the rapid and recent adoption of generative AI and Large Language Models (LLMs) across numerous commercial products and services, the inevitable convergence of IT and OT environments managed by AI has never seemed so close to fruition. However, realizing its full potential rests on the ability of technology providers to ensure trust in these converged systems, Chen says. Specifically, it requires:

  • Trust in the organizations and institutions that we all rely on, to design and maintain their products and services with our safety and security foremost in mind.
  • Trust that they're using the safest, most secure software stacks – from safety-certified real-time operating systems to the most effective endpoint solutions and zero trust access available — to protect the advanced intelligent infrastructure.
  • Trust that they've audited their supply chains and source code for any potential vulnerabilities.
  • Trust that they’ve met or exceeded all applicable safety and security certifications and regulations, and are working continuously to close the gaps that criminals seek to exploit.
  • Trust that they are protecting your privacy, rather than exploiting your data.

In fact, the global issue has been described as a “digital trust deficit” by multiple analyst firms, including McKinsey & Co. and KPMG, as well as by non-governmental organizations such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), which established a Digital Trust Initiative last November to draw greater attention to the problem.

This trust deficit sits squarely in the way of continued innovation and, as the WEF notes, threatens to “undermine the societal benefits of digitalization.” Unfortunately, few organizations possess the core competencies — including the necessary product, services, and IP portfolios — to create and sustain this level of trust.

Chen asserts that through its concerted efforts and investment in the high-growth markets of secure enterprise IT and safety-certified IoT software, BlackBerry stands among the few companies on the planet uniquely positioned to help bridge this trust deficit. In fact, Chen’s assertions were recently validated in independent research from McKinsey & Co. The firm’s report, “Cybersecurity for the IoT: How Trust Can Unlock Value,” cites BlackBerry’s unique position “at the intersection of cybersecurity and the IoT,” and notes that BlackBerry is “well-positioned to marry enterprise cybersecurity solutions with IoT platforms” — a key to instilling the trust needed to successfully tap a $750B convergence market that the analyst firm has predicted for 2030.

If you’d like to learn more about what BlackBerry is doing today, and its pivotal role in realizing the full promise and potential of IT and OT convergence, I invite you to watch Chen’s AGM presentation (below) and to join the company’s upcoming BlackBerry Summit event in October.

Video of BlackBerry Executive Chairman & CEO John Chen's presentation at the BlackBerry 2023 Annual General Meeting.
Join BlackBerry for a day of inspiring keynotes, presentations, and discussions at the tenth annual BlackBerry Summit, Tuesday, October 17, 2023, in New York. 
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Steve Kovsky

About Steve Kovsky

Steve Kovsky is former Editorial Director at BlackBerry.