BlackBerry yanked its phones from T-Mobile stores after a T-Mobile ad campaign suggested customers should trade in their BlackBerry for an iPhone, but on Thursday, new BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he's not averse to snuffing out the iconic handsets completely if BlackBerry phones don't start making money once again.
"If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business," Chen told Reuters.
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Slow to respond to the rising threat of the iPhone and Android, BlackBerry pinned its hopes on the long-delayed release of the BB10 operating system in 2013 -- but the new phones tanked hard, dragging BlackBerry's revenues into the toilet with them. Last quarter alone, BlackBerry phone sales dropped a whopping 77 percent despite the September release of the 5-inch BlackBerry Z30, and the company laid off 40 percent of its employees late last year to try to right the sinking ship.
Chen told Reuters that BlackBerry's phone line could be profitable if it sold just 10 million per year, a fraction of the 52.3 million handsets it moved in 2013. Unfortunately, hitting that modest goal may prove difficult. The IDC research firm says BlackBerry managed to move a mere 1.7 million phones in the crucial holiday season. But hey, that's better than other estimates; market research firm CIRP says BlackBerry accounted for zero -- yes, zero -- percent of the consumer phone market last holiday season.
No matter how you count it, the numbers are grim. But Chen isn't ready to throw in the towel on hardware just quite yet.
"I don't have a plan to get rid of handsets, I have a plan to not be dependent on handsets," Chen told Bloomberg Businessweek on Thursday, in a separate interview. "All I need to do is replace the handset revenue, and this company will be very different."