BlackBerry CEO: "Turnaround won't rely on touchscreen phones"

blackberry z10

BlackBerry's newly installed chief John Chen hopes the ailing smartphone maker will return to profit by 2016, and revealed plans to build fewer touchscreen devices in future.

Chen was ushered in to replace former BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins in November, as part of the firm's ongoing turnaround efforts.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, Chen set out his plans to get the company back on track after a tumultuous few years.

In the future, the company's phones will predominantly have physical keyboards rather than touchscreens.

They include a renewed focus on winning deals in the enterprise, he revealed, and a return to BlackBerry's roots of developing phones with physical keyboards.

According to a report on Bloomberg, this is because enterprise users prefer to use a physical keyboard, rather than a touchscreen one, to write emails.

"I personally love the keyboards," he told Bloomberg TV. "In the future, the company's phones will predominantly have physical keyboards rather than touchscreens."

Chen's strategy is in stark contrast to BlackBerry's focus 12 months ago, which saw the firm gearing up to release its much-hyped Z10 touchscreen smartphone.

Despite winning favourable reviews, sales of the device were lacklustre.

During a further Q&A session at CES with journalists, Chen warned that turning around BlackBerry will take time and that the company roadmap is still being finalised.

Furthermore, he reportedly told attendees he wants the company to be in the black within four quarters and be in the position to turn a profit by 2016.

The firm's recent manufacturing deal with Foxconn will play a key part in this, he added, because it means the firm is at less risk of being saddled with inventory issues.

In September 2013, BlackBerry was hit with a $934 million inventory charge because of unsold Z10 smartphones.

"Foxconn can be a really great partner, not only to eliminate my inventory risk, but also their ability to penetrate various different markets, call it the developing and emerging markets," he said.

The first device to come off the Foxconn assembly line is likely to be a touchscreen device, he added, but phones with physical keyboards will be the primary focus in future.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.