BlackBerry lays out security strategy as turnaround takes shape

Thu Jul 23, 2015 7:29pm EDT
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By Euan Rocha

NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd on Thursday showcased a suite of security products that safeguard everything from medical devices to Hollywood movie scripts, though its CEO acknowledged that his effort to transform the company remains a work in progress.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company, whose smartphone market share has dwindled, is attempting to morph into a more software-focused entity.

"I'm pretty satisfied with the progress on the turnaround so far," BlackBerry's Chief Executive John Chen said in an interview just before an event in New York. "I laid out the $500 million software revenue target and I'm still comfortable with that commitment for this fiscal year, it looks good."

He indicated however that the full turnaround he has been promising could take longer than initially promised. Going by his initial timetable, BlackBerry would now be about six months away from seeing real traction from its overhaul. But Chen said he now sees it taking about 12 to 18 months for investors to reap rewards.

Analysts have been skeptical about the company's ability to steadily and sustainably grow software revenue, even as revenues from its smartphone unit and legacy system access fees decline.

"We're patiently building the product pipeline and the sales channel," he said. "There is still a lot of work to do, I'd love for everything to move faster, but I caution people to be a bit patient because we can't rebound in a very short period of time, no company can. We are doing all the right things for the long term and the company is definitely out of financial trouble."

Despite Chen's success in shoring up BlackBerry's balance sheet, and halting its cash bleed, its shares are still trading at levels they were at 15 months ago, as investors look for proof that it can get back on a growth trajectory.

The company, which has acquired a string of niche software-focused companies in the last 18 months, is now set on building out a bigger sales team, while also tapping the sales staff of telecom carriers and other partners to market its array of security-focused products.

"The company was not really set-up as a software delivery company, and it's not a trivial thing to get there," said BlackBerry's Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard, adding that measures taken in the last year have improved BlackBerry's ability to identify and target potential clients. (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Christian Plumb)