John Chen sat down with the Washington Post andÃ‚Â discussed everything from the influence of his Catholic high school,Ã‚Â why almost no job is beneath a person, to how he plans to rescue BlackBerry.
When asked about why he took the job at BlackBerry, Chen explained how he declined the job several times and how Prem Watsa “fooledÃ‚Â him” a little:
“One of the bigger investors in the company, Prem Watsa, approached me. He is a very persistent fellow. I said no the first couple of times. He kind of fooled me by saying,Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you just kind of come in and build a management team and set the strategy and be the executive chairman?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really set the strategy and build the management team without being hands-on.”
Chen spoke a little about the history of BlackBerry, even pointing out that Blackberry, at the time, were so intent on security that they considered putting a camera on a smartphone a security risk,
“At one time, the company owned about 49Ã‚Â percent of the market share in smartphones. It was a status symbol.
The market changed, and the company didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change with the market. The consumer shifted from a closed environment, where everything functions together, and worked well and all that stuff to, Ã¢â‚¬ËœHey, they want applications.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Then the iPhone came on the scene.
What the iPhone represented we missed. To give people the choice. It was to integrate it into more and more a part of their life. Music. iTunes. Pictures.
At one point in time, we even had an internal debate that putting a camera on a phone is a source of a security leak. So weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gone through a lot.
Well, you know the rest of the history.”
Chen also mentions BlackBerry’s focus in the medial field and, interestingly mentions that “everybody’s going to beÃ‚Â hacked”, presumably at one point in time or another.
“Mobile is part of everybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life. And itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be a bigger and bigger part. We are going to transact banking data on devices. We are going to consume medical data on devices. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be your personal ID on these devices. The mobile security is going to be even much more needed than today.
EverybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be hacked.
You may not feel as threatened today because they only read it. But if I change your medical records, you will be very threatened. And youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to come running to me and youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll buy my stuff.”
When asked how he intends to “fix” BlackBerry, Chen once again reiterated that the focus isÃ‚Â software,
“I want to go back to the people who really need security. So what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to be coming back on are security, encryption, privacy, enterprise and a lot more on end-to-end solutions.
The real cusp of what we are focusing on is the software. Our software runs on everything now. Not only on BlackBerry, it runs on iPhone, IOS, Google devices, Microsoft devices. We want to manage all these devices in a very secure manner.”
When it comes to the BlackBerry side of things the CEO says very little newÃ‚Â but you can read the rest of his interview here, where he discusses how serving on the boards of Walt Disney and Wells Fargo helps him with his role at BlackBerry, and more.
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