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BlackBerry: No, we’re not leaving the handset market

President Obama checks his BlackBerry. (Jae C. Hong /Asscociated Press)

BlackBerry is looking at a lot of options for its future. But there's one thing that chief executive John Chen wants to make absolutely clear: BlackBerry's future will contain smartphones.

For the foreseeable future,  at least.

The company published an official blog post Thursday affirming BlackBerry's commitment to the smartphone and devices market, saying that he has "no intention of selling off or abandoning this business any time soon."

The declaration comes just a day after a Reuters article indicated Chen would consider leaving the handset business if it continued to be unprofitable. In the article, Chen said that he "will not be in the handset business" if he can't make money in it. But in an official follow-up post from the company, Chen explained to BlackBerry customers who might worry that their phones are on the verge of losing official support that his comments were taken out of context.

"I know you still love your BlackBerry devices. I love them too and I know they created the foundation of this company," he said, addressing BlackBerry's fiercely loyal, but shrinking, base of customers. "Our focus today is on finding a way to make this business profitable."

He did, however, make clear that BlackBerry is looking to complement its handset business with other revenue streams, such as its business software products. In recent years, BlackBerry has liberated both its BlackBerry Messenger communications platform and its security device management systems from its own hardware and begun offering them on competitors' devices.

Chen has the unenviable job of turning the struggling Canadian smartphone firm around, after a big bet by previous CEO Thorsten Heins to relaunch the brand by offering more modern smartphones failed to pay off.

Thanks to a reputation as turnaround architect,  Chen was named as Heins's successor in November. Thus far, he has been focused on stemming losses and cutting costs. And he's had some effect: In its last earnings report, BlackBerry investors cheered the firm's smaller-than-expected loss of $423 million. Revenue, however, dipped below $1 billion for the first time since 2007.

Chen has scaled back BlackBerry's device business and even stopped some of its own smartphone production, striking a deal with electronics manufacturer Foxconn to produce low-cost phones for customers in overseas markets such as India, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

But it's clear from Chen's most recent comments that BlackBerry is eager to show that it's not about to leave its core business and its government users, such as President Obama, in the lurch.

"Rest assured, we continue to fight. We have not given up and we are not leaving the Devices business," Chen said.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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