If there were any doubts BlackBerry is serious about jettisoning its me-too consumer efforts and limping back to its enterprise roots, they ended this week with word that the Canadian mobile device and platform vendor was parting ways with celeb "creative director" Alicia Keys.
Keys' tenure with the company, which never generated much beyond some industry head-scratching, officially ends 30 January.
"We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual," the company said in a statement e-mailed to CTV.
The parting of the ways comes almost exactly one year after a giddy former BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins debuted the BlackBerry 10 in New York City and introduced Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Keys as the firm's new global creative director.
"We are directly engaging with a set of conversations with creative people to inspire the future of BlackBerry," Heins said of Keys appointment at the time. "We needed someone who is creative and into technology."
Less than two weeks later, Keys got in social media hot water for Tweeting from her iPhone, something she was back to doing earlier this week.
While Keys' appointment was seen by industry watchers as a very "Thorsten Heins" kind of thing to do, her dismissal is much more in line with recent efforts by Heins' replacement, interim CEO and former Sybase chief John Chen.
Chen has been hyperfocused on getting the ailing BlackBerry back to its enterprise and government roots. He penned an op-ed for CNBC earlier this week to reassure customers and investors that the company was still viable.
"When it comes to enterprise, we're still the leader," Chen wrote. "Don't be fooled by the competition's rhetoric claiming to be more secure or having more experience than BlackBerry. With a global enterprise customer base exceeding 80,000, we have three times the number of customers compared to Good, AirWatch and MobileIron combined.
"Many in the regulated industries-those with the most stringent security needs-still depend solely on BlackBerry to secure their mobile infrastructure," said Chen. "For governments, BlackBerry cannot just be replaced-we are the only MDM provider to obtain ‘Authority to Operate' on US Department of Defense networks. This means the DoD is allowed to use only BlackBerry. Across the globe, seven out of seven of the G7 governments are also BlackBerry customers."
This fall, BlackBerry inked a distribution deal with Tech Data that will have the latter offering BlackBerry's multi-platform enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution as part of the distributor's enterprise offerings for channel partners in the US.
BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 consolidates the company's Enterprise Mobility Management product portfolio, which includes MDM, infrastructure and app management and, most notably, security for most mobile devices, including those that run on Google's Android operating system and Apple's iOS.
Clearly Chen will need all the goodwill he can muster to overcome what has become a troubling spiral for the once-proud Canadian firm. Once a darling of the smartphone market, BlackBerry has seen its share of the mobile OS market fall to just 2.7 per cent, recent IDC figures released earlier this month show. Although the figure was up one point from last year, the company's share still remains far behind Android and iOS, which own 75.3 per cent and 16.9 per cent market share, respectively.
In September, global electronics manufacturing services firm Jabil Circuit said it was planning to terminate its smartphone manufacturing pact with BlackBerry.
"We are in discussions right now on how we are going to wind down the relationship," Mark Mondello, CEO of the $16bn Florida company, said at the time, adding that he was concerned with the drag BlackBerry's poor performance was putting on Jabil's bottom line.
That had many in the industry speculating BlackBerry will exit the handset business for good after its latest flagship phones - the Z10 and Q10 - failed to resonate with consumers.
"The company has sailed off a cliff," analyst Colin Gillis of BGC Partners told Reuters. "What do you expect when you announce you're up for sale? Who wants to commit to a platform that could possibly be shut down?"
Late last month, the company posted a $4.4bn quarterly loss with sales down 56 percent year-over-year to $1.2bn, both figures well below Wall Street expectations. The company is moving forward with plans to cut its workforce by 40 per cent, putting more than 5,000 jobs at risk. Additional cuts may still be required, they add.
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