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What John Chen Is Really Saying About BlackBerry's Handset Business

He's essentially telling Wall Street he doesn't plan to throw good money after bad, while reassuring customers he isn't throwing in the towel just yet.

Ina Fried

Read this Reuters story and it seems like BlackBerry is giving up on the phone business. Read this blog post and it sounds like BlackBerry would never consider such a thing.

So what’s the deal?

There’s probably a fair amount of truth in both perspectives. It’s important, though, to pay attention to the nuance in both pieces — and to the intended audience.

John Chen’s comments to Reuters (and related ones to Bloomberg) were about the health of the devices business, and Chen was being clear that BlackBerry didn’t intend to keep losing money making phones.

He was talking to Wall Street about how he views that business.

“If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business,” the BlackBerry CEO told Reuters.

Of course, far more than Wall Street reads Reuters and Bloomberg, and the reaction to Chen’s comments added further uncertainty about an already tenuous platform that is struggling for relevance and scale.

Hence Thursday’s blog post, in which Chen said BlackBerry had no plans to get out of the device business any time soon. This was a piece written to BlackBerry fans and would-be buyers, reassuring them that they aren’t stuck with a lame duck.

“I want to assure you that I have no intention of selling off or abandoning this business any time soon,” Chen said. “I know you still love your BlackBerry devices. I love them too and I know they created the foundation of this company. Our focus today is on finding a way to make this business profitable.”

BlackBerry has already taken steps to cut costs in the phone unit, scaling back its planned lineup and outsourcing manufacturing to Foxconn. The company has committed to new products this year, including an all-touch model that Chen flashed at a press conference in Barcelona and a “BlackBerry Classic” model that will include the company’s signature keyboard.

As for the future beyond that, it’s fair to say that’s an open question.

This article originally appeared on

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