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BlackBerry going back to basics, says new CEO

By Jim Boulden and Dylan Reynolds, CNN
updated 5:19 PM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chen: "My strategy relies on the enterprise customer for the next one to two years"
  • Z3 and Q20 are first products emerging from partnership with electronics maker Foxconn
  • Asked if he would consider selling off BBM, Chen said: "I run a public company."
  • "Potential cannot be realized until we make money and then the company starts believing in itself"

Barcelona (CNN) -- BlackBerry CEO John Chen says the company will focus on attracting and keeping business customers as he implements his strategy to reverse its decline.

Speaking in Barcelona, where he unveiled the company's new Z3 and Q20 smartphones on Tuesday, Chen said: "My turnaround strategy relies on the enterprise customer for the next one to two years.

"In the meantime I actually want to make sure that we still have a very keen eye on the consumer space.

"By that time I hope if all my plans work -- a big if -- we will be a much more financially solid company, at which point in time you will see us being more aggressive into the other space."

The Z3 and Q20 will be the first products to emerge from BlackBerry's partnership with electronics maker Foxconn. Under the five-year agreement, Foxconn will develop and manufacture certain BlackBerry handsets, while the company focuses on software and its BlackBerry Messsaging service, BBM.

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Although they unveiled the Q20 smartphone, which combines a physical keyboard with a 3.5-inch touchscreen, the company didn't show a prototype in Barcelona.

Speaking about the production of the Z3, Chen said: "It's the first collaboration between us and Foxconn. I don't think anybody has been able to put a phone together at this level this quickly and it will get into the hands of our consumers in exactly four months.

"The deal was signed between us and Foxconn on December 12, 2013, and we will see it in April."

BBM has been a talking point at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, following Facebook's blockbuster acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp last week for $19 billion. BBM boasts around 85 million monthly active users, compared with more than 450 million for WhatsApp.

Asked if he would consider selling off BBM, Chen said: "I run a public company. Anything that's good for our shareholder I have to entertain. Having said that, BBM is a huge part of our strategy going forwards.

"There are a lot more features and functionality that will be built up on it. It's an integral part of what value do we add to the enterprise [customer] and why should they continue with us."

BlackBerry unveiled a new version of its messaging service Tuesday called BBM Protected, with a focus on increased security for business clients.

He said raising confidence inside and outside the company is the biggest challenge he faces in the next 12 months.

"I need to make sure the employee is confident. I'm making a lot of changes which are a little more of a departure from the norms of the past.

"I've been in the business long enough to know this is really about 'show me.' At the end of the day they want to see that we can make progress as a company both in product and financially. Until I do that, all these things are interesting, relevant, capture a lot of attention, but the real potential cannot be realized until we make money and then the company starts believing in itself."

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