BlackBerry CEO Chen sees increased channel focus key to regaining mobile security supremacy

At the BlackBerry Security Summit in New York City, CEO John Chen used his kickoff keynote to stress that expansion of the company’s partner network is the company’s key to continuing their strong recent growth and climbing back to the top in mobile security.

John Chen onstage at the BlackBerry Security Security Summit

NEW YORK CITY — BlackBerry has done a remarkable job over the last three years in climbing out of the coffin to which some analysts had consigned it. That resurgence has been positively impacted by their channel. But the channel is still something that BlackBerry can grow. In his opening keynote at the BlackBerry Security Summit here today, BlackBerry Executive Chairman and CEO John Chen emphasized that point with authority.

“The last couple of years, we have been very focused on building the channel,” Chen told his audience. “BlackBerry always had the technology. Since I came here, we have changed the direction of the company and pivoted to software. But I realized that we still had a lack of channels. I had 600 customers — the telcos –and that was it. We sold through them to get to other customers.”

While Chen has no illusions that BlackBerry will ever regain the profile it once enjoyed in the mobile space when it was the leading maker of phones, he thinks their software and security-focused strategy can make them a strong force.

“I feel comfortable that we will remain a major player,” he said. “However, to get back to the top, we will need to relay a lot on channels and out partners. They will provide our reach.”

That channel strategy is already well underway. Chen presented statistics indicating 75 per cent growth year-over-year in enterprise channels, and 25 per cent growth in BlackBerry’s Technology Solutions channels. Chen said that BlackBerry needs to ramp this up more, however.

“Getting to a cybersecurity strategy means that we have to focus on a very robust channel strategy,” he said. “We have a big focus now on partners — development partners, go-to-market partners, value-added partners, and Sis. We have made significant accomplishments in the last year, and we will continue to do that. Becoming an ecosystem major player means embedded in as many things as possible. We are working with GE around doing this in medical equipment, but it’s not just about doing one thing here.”

Chen said that partners who have joined with BlackBerry for the fight have given them very high marks, both for their technology and for their understanding of the cybersecurity problem.

“We have the most comprehensive and secure platform in the market,” Chen stressed. “Once we were told that not having single sign-on was once a problem. Microsoft has single sign-on, we were told, and that’s what customers want. The problem with single sign-on is that once an intruder get in, they are in, and we have seen single sign-on systems allow devastating hacks with  just one entry.”

Chen said that while BlackBerry doesn’t claim to have a magic bullet for security, they are as close as you can get.

“There isn’t a perfectly safe solution,” he stated. “We know that. This is an ‘as safe as you can get’ solution, and we will continue to excel and build on it.”