BlackBerry CEO John Chen’s Interview on BNN


Yesterday afternoon, BlackBerry CEO John Chen was interviewed by news reporter Amber Kanwar on the Business News Network (BNN).  The focus of this interview was CEO Chen’s strategy to monetize BlackBerry’s BBM messenger service to the tune of $100 million by 2016 as part of his diversification strategy.

He was challenged about how realistic this plan was, given that fact that WhatsApp with 6 times BBM’s userbase of 91 million active monthly subscribers, only made $15 million in 2014


CEO Chen reiterated that the difference was that WhatsApp was focused on consumers while BBM was focused on on enterprise.  He also stated that BBM and its underlying infrastructure were already providing value added services beyond messaging in order to satisfy the needs of government, corporations and industry.

The example he gave was that while Apple Pay had just been launched in the USA for mobile NFC payments, BlackBerry, through its secure NOC infrastructure, used by BBM, had already been supporting mobile NFC payments for several years beforehand in Canada through a company called EnStream.


One of the main differences between the approach of EnStream and other solutions such as Apple Pay, is that EnStream was built to be platform agnostic and work with all NFC enabled mobile devices.  Solutions such as Apple Pay are platform dependent and restricts the userbase to those who have iPhone 6 devices.  So it in itself is a limiting factor.


Various other topics such as celebrity Kim Kardashian’s recent announcement that she was a fan of BlackBerry were covered as well

The interview is available on BNN’s website at the following link below:

Interview video : BNN

**Regarding the BNN interview link, their mobile website videos are not compatible with some BlackBerry 10 browsers, but I found that the video worked perfectly when viewed on the Evolution Web browser for BlackBerry 10 **

** Another option is to view the BNN interview video posted by Chris Parsons on YouTube: here  **


In addition, I have also transcribed it below:

The interview

Amber Kanwar:
Lets talk about these targets.  One of them BBM generating $100 million in revenue by the end of 2016.  Is that correct?

John Chen:
*Nods head in agreement*

Amber Kanwar:
WhatsApp has 600 million users, did $15 million in revenue in 2014.  You have 91 million users.  How is that target realistic when you look at WhatsApp?

John Chen:
WhatsApp is exclusively focusing on consumers.  BBM has a strong focus on enterprise.  I look at BBM not only as a messaging play.  I look at it beyond the consumer.  How enterprise communicates like governments.  We have a lot of customers in various agencies in Canadian governments that uses BBM as a communication tool.

Also security. Very private conversations inside the institution.  So its more of a transport.  You know there was a lot of noise on Apple Pay and people might not bet on us on doing a good enough job.  We have been doing mobile payment infrastructure for a long time.  EnStream, for example in Canada

Amber Kanwar:
But how is that service then working?  Because people do want to get rid of their wallets and that would be so convenient if it was just in the device.

John Chen:
Some people want to get rid of their wallet, not all people want to get rid of them.  There are old folks like myself that are still more comfortable paying some cash.  But its transactional based.  We are the infrastructure that clears these transactions between the telephone companies, the merchants as well as the banks, so we will get a cut of the transactions as it becomes more viral.

Amber Kanwar:
And so you have said, you know, some people want this.  Of course you are familiar that Kim Kardashian loves her BlackBerry.  Was that a surprise to you?

John Chen:
I just found that out

Amber Kanwar:
Did you ask who Kim Kardashian was?  Be honest.

John Chen:
No, I have never met this lady

Amber Kanwar:
But one of the things she said was “I use my BlackBerry for typing, but I have my iPhone for taking pictures”  Why not create a device that is for everybody that has all of those things?  It seems like you’ve actually pushed against that quite significantly.

John Chen:
Well I prefer to think about that people get their iPhone because it is a fun thing to have, but they just try to find something useful to do with it.  It will be.  Actually our camera and the software surrounding it and the ability to make stories, adding music to it.

Look at our latest releases with the Passport.  It is tremendous.  So I think one of these days, something else might happen in the world. So yes, the answer to your question is that we would love to do that.  We would love to get you one device.

Amber Kanwar:
So be everything to everybody?

John Chen:
No I can’t be everything to everybody.  You are talking about taking pictures.

Amber Kanwar:

John Chen:
It seems like selfie is some kind of an application.

Amber Kanwar:
That’s a big deal!  There’s devices…

John Chen:
We made a device that do selfies well.  We will continue to explore these areas.  Multimedia that customers would love to use for both work… We won’t lose the work part of it… The work and life part.

So for example we just bought a company that provides two phone numbers on the same SIM.  Those are the things that we will continue to explore.

My perspective on the interview was that CEO John Chen did reasonably well.  His focus was clearly on enterprise and he answered the questions accordingly, making sure to emphasize the business benefits for BlackBerry.  This was true especially in regards to BBM and BlackBerry’s plan to monetize it. On the consumer side, he did answer questions and make the point that the features on the BlackBerry Passport satisfied a lot of those needs.

The other aspect of the interview that I noted was that Amber threw CEO Chen a few curveballs.


The first one was a question implying was that BlackBerry’s cameras were outdated, in regards to Kardashian’s statement on using BlackBerry for typing emails and her iPhone for taking pictures.

To be fair, Kardashian’s BlackBerry Bold is a 4 year old device on the legacy BBOS platform.  Since then the new BlackBerry10 platform and several devices, including the latest BlackBerry Passport flagship device have been released and the new cameras are head and shoulders above the previous ones both in functionality and picture quality.

Hopefully someone will get Kim a new Passport device, so that she can experience the superior picture quality from its 13 mega pixel camera and 453 ppi resolution that many of us who own it already enjoy.


The other curveball was that by one of her questions, she implied BlackBerry devices were behind in terms of what consumers need in a device..  This I thought has not been true since the 10.2.1 upgrade that significantly reduced that app gap that was very evident before that.  All the main social media apps and 98% of Android apps now run on BlackBerry 10.

In addition to apps, BlackBerry 10 has many features that appeal to consumer needs such as a superior browser,  multimedia playing abilities, hdmi, miracast, mobile hotspot, sd card slot for external storage, connection to cloud storage such as Box, DropBox or OneDrive, Bluetooth, unified inbox, etc.


In regards to some of the questions that were raised by the interviewer would cause one to scratch their head in amazement, as I wondered whether or not she even knew about the BlackBerry 10 platform or had ever used a BB10 device.  The other thing I noted as well was that she interrupted CEO Chen when he was giving his thoughts on BlackBerry’s role in the EnStream mobile payment solution, which I though was unfair.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below


Web99 enjoys tech and has tried smartphones on all the major platforms. Out of all devices he has tried, BlackBerry10 best fulfills his needs.