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.

  • ital1

    And once again we see the power of BlackBerry’s cross platform solutions. Given that they provide the infrastructure for mobile payments in Canada, it doesn’t matter what NFC enabled phone you use. Proprietary solutions limit your reach, and as we’re seeing in the US, could cost you users as well.

    • web99


      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree that the better approach is what BlackBerry is doing in terms of providing cross-platform solutions. Solutions such as Apple Pay is totally dependent not only on Apple’s userbase, but on the percentage of them with iPhone 6 devices.

      Given that the iPhone userbase has been declining at the expense of Android over the last couple of years, even in the USA, I don’t think it will ever become the de facto standard for mobile payments. It excludes too many potential customers on other platforms.

      Can Apple Halt Its Eroding Market Share?

      Another article that is a good read is the one below from Forbes Magazine

      4 Perils of Apple Pay

      • ital1

        The funny thing is that they’ve not brought anything new to the table. Even their security claims with respect to tokenization is existing tech. All they’ve done is created a wallet app, no more and no less. Google Wallet was out three years before and the Canadian banks have their own mobile wallets. I know of one that uses tokenization and I suspect/hope the rest do as well. Apple Pay in my mind is not a payment system as they like to claim.

  • twstd.reality

    From the article I read, it said she already had a passport. She just hasn’t gotten around to using it – she loves her bold that much apparently.

  • twstd.reality

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

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

    That are only good as app launchers and taking selfies! Honestly, I don’t think she even knows what BB10 can do.

  • bambinoitaliano

    I find it’s not necessarily the interviewer do not know about the subject, rather what she assume her viewers do not know. Hence you see all these interviews of John Chen get asked the same question as if BB10 does not exist. We no longer watch the news to learn thing rather it’s a regurgitation of the same news we had heard over and over again. Traditional medias are copying the internet media and vice versa. With shorter attention span, we barely read a few by-lines or watch an interview lasting more than 3 minutes. Information are being disseminate like a tweet with 150 word or less. So Apple good and BlackBerry bad is all the regular people out care to remember.

  • BB Racer !!

    Great Post WEB !!!……
    The BNN Host named Amber is labeling BlackBerry users as Bold 9900 with a iPhone….but then she follows with this curveball question. ” why not give users what they want ” well Amber BB10 users are taking and Social sharing Selfies for over a year now on All BB10 phones ! CEO John Chen is a very prudent and enterprise focused CEO but was also explaining to you the Social Sharing native App on BlackBerry 10 called Storymaker. At weddings and parties I get asked all the time to do a Storymaker of the social event and have it shared to selected guests within the evening all the time ! Amber here is what CEO John Chen was talking about concerning this great Social sharing Native App called Storymaker :

    Now once your done using Storymaker for social reasons the App also has a professional application eg. if your a realtor or a marketing person you can put together a promo together for your clients about your services. We also have another excellent native App called BlackBerry Express :

    • web99

      BB Racer,

      Thanks for your comment. That is the one thing that I find the most frustrating. The BlackBerry 10 platform has been out almost 2 years and has grown by leaps and bounds both in therms of functionality and stability.

      At least 6 new devices has been released with the BB10 operating system, but yet many in the media still perpetuate the premise the impression that they still remain the same as the devices from 5 and 6 years ago.

      In regard to your comment about Storymaker, it is a great application and I have used it several times as well


    Don’t get me wrong. Chen is a great guy and the C.E.O. BlackBerry needs. But sometimes, after watching his interviews, it is apparent that he might do better if English was not his second ( third? fourth?) language. He might be better equipped to deal with these little comments that the interviewers slip in and he seemingly lets go by.

    • web99


      You do raise a good point, but this is what I think happened. Ever since CEO John Chen came on board at BlackBerry his focus has always been on enterprise.

      Chen was in the middle of talking about BlackBerry’s role in EnStream when the reporter asked him a silly question about Kim Kardashian and her 4 year old device and its camera, which is not even relevant anymore.

      I have yet to see any TV interviewer this year interviewing Apple CEO Tim Cook in 2014 asking him about functionality existing in the iPhone 6 today, which is lacking today in an iPhone 4 from 2011. They would be viewed by uninformed and rightly roasted in the media.

      They don’t do this because there is an expectation that when talking to the Apple CEO or the Samsung CEO that the reporter will do his and her homework and make meaningful preparation to ask intelligent questions. This does not seem to be the case when BlackBerry is involved.

      You are correct about English not being Chen’s first language and I do agree that the question could have been better handled, but I have a different perspective on why Chen let the question go by.

      These interviews are 3 minute soundbites in which you only have so much time to get in your main points and I think he wanted to get in about much as BlackBerry’s role in enterprise as possible.

      By her questions, he must have realized that this lady is clueless on BB10, so properly giving her the information to understand the superior functionality of features such as Time Shift, Story Maker, etc would have taken more time than the interview allowed.

      That’s why I believe he mentioned selfies (going down to her level of understanding) and that the Passport was great at doing it and brushed the rest of the question off.

      But I do think that Chen will be better prepared next time if an interviewer goes off track like she did. If I was him, I would have countered her question by saying that the BlackBerry Passport with its 13 mega pixel camera has one of the best cameras among flagship devices and that its resolution and picture quality is close to the top among the devices out there.


        Good points web99. The only one I take issue with is that, the interview is a showcase for those potential customers watching. It is an opportunity to push BB-10 and all the new phones from BlackBerry. Whether or not the interviewer understands the operating system is irrelevant. Chen’s job is to educate the consumer watching the interview.

  • BB Racer !!

    Well we all know John Chen is the front and center person of BlackBerry today. He is 150% focused on the 80% margin business of enterprise vs the low margin business of Consumer mobile. Thing is he is always curved balled down that road. BlackBerry Marketing team needs to provide Mr Chen the ready to go consumer responses to those consumer questions. I love to see Jeff Gadway in that enterprise and consumer demo roll ! . A great example of these curveball consumer questions was with Walt Mossberg from Recode who asked Chen ( paraphrasing) ” I do not know one soul on BBM ” another useless question but then he follows with a character question of John Chen ( paraphrasing) ” why BlackBerry ? You have never run a mobile company ” Well that was the wrong question from Walt Mossberg because now you got John Chen to talk his book….which is the enterprise $5.8B Sybase book. Chen answered ( paraphrasing) ” well at Sybase I started mobile enterprise apps before they even existed ” Well that conversation changed fast by our Walt Mossberg who is basically a pseudo Apple PR man !

    BB10 is a great social sharing platform for most social sites eg. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Youtube, etc….

  • jubatus

    It s up to Blackberry to do a better job in promoting what Blackberry 10 is able to do. We Blackberry 10 people have done a great deal in promoting the brand to our friends and families. Blackberry must do more to get the word out. A sale is a sale.


      Agreed jubatus. And those of us with BB-10 phones, and especially, the Passport, are front and centre in a ‘guerrilla marketing’ campaign for BlackBerry. But it is Chen who is the face of BlackBerry and the B-10 O.S. I certainly did not mean to be critical of Chen as I believe he is one of the few people who can and will turn the company around. However, it seems at times that he is side tracked by his interviewers and loses his focus on his message when he tries to ‘educate’ the ditz who is interviewing him. These interviews are nothing more and nothing less than marketing opportunities where the message should be strong and simple. Sometimes it appears that, possibly, the language thing bumps him off the track.

      Now it may be that Chen is just a great and thorough guy who is trying to address all of the interviewer’s questions, but sometimes, like the politician who skips a question to drive home his message, Chen should just concentrate on driving home BlackBerry’s message; that BB-10 is the best O.S. out there and very ‘business friendly like no other and BlackBerry phones are second to none. Period.