UPDATE 1-BlackBerry's top goal to make devices profitable this year -CEO

Wed Jun 22, 2016 1:29pm EDT
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(Adds comment from shareholders, details from presentation)

By Alastair Sharp

WATERLOO, Ontario, June 22 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd's top priority this year is making its devices business profitable, its chief executive said on Wednesday, even as it weighs the future of its hardware operation.

"The device business must be profitable, because we don't want to run a business that drags onto the bottom line," Chief Executive John Chen told investors at the company's annual meeting. "We've got to get there this year."

Chen has previously said a decision would be made by September on the future of the unit, which has suffered a sustained drop in sales in recent quarters.

But at the meeting, attended by around 100 people, he said he sees better opportunity in providing services that enable increasingly commoditized hardware to do more.

"I don't personally believe handsets will be the future of any company," he said.

BlackBerry, once the smartphone market leader before being displaced by Apple Inc and competitors run on Alphabet Inc's Android platform, has worked to reposition itself as a software and service provider focused on device management for large organizations.

In its presentation to investors, the company said it expects the broader market for types of software it is producing to expand to $17.6 billion by 2019, from $525 million in 2012 and below $4 billion in 2015, powered by growth in medical, legal, financial and automotive industries.   Continued...