BlackBerry is finally ready to resume growth, says CEO Chen -- but first the company must overcome its crumbling device business.
In a memo sent to employees, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said that after three years of layoffs and restructuring, the company is finally poised for growth and plans to add jobs in the coming months.
"Barring any unexpected downturns in the market, we will be adding headcount in certain areas such as product development, sales and customer service, beginning in modest numbers," he wrote in the memo, first reported by Reuters
and subsequently confirmed by BlackBerry.
Chen offered few specifics about his turnaround strategy, though he cautioned that the company has little margin for error. Still saddled with a device business that literally can't get much worse, the CEO, who took over this year, hasn't convinced all skeptics.
Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told us that it's too early to tell if Chen, who has rehabilitated failing companies in the past, can resuscitate BlackBerry. "I don't believe a lot of these pieces can survive when they're part of a hardware company." For smartphones, customers want to go somewhere else -- generally to Apple or, in markets with fewer subsidies, Samsung.
Chen's efforts so far have included selling assets and real estate and doubling down on the company's software and services. In June, for example, he talked up the BlackBerry Enterprise Server while tactfully dismissing Android's attempts at enterprise-grade security.
He's also focused on his company's security-centric customers, such as government agencies. However, reports indicate that this effort hasn't necessarily paid off. Likewise, Dulaney said, many of these customers have moved on.
Having announced multiple rounds of layoffs involving thousands of workers each, the company appeared all but dead late last year when it posted a massive $4.4 billion quarterly loss. By last June, however, the company had slowed the bleeding. Its most recent quarterly earnings report was actually somewhat positive.
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