How BlackBerry moved from iconic cellphones to cybersecurity
BlackBerry was once at the top of the smartphone market in the U.S. In 2010, almost half of smartphone subscribers in the U.S. used BlackBerrys, according to Comscore.
The phones were well-known for having a tactile keyboard and for BlackBerry’s advanced cybersecurity — often favored among businesses and governments.
But after its phones fell out of favor with users, BlackBerry altered its course, taking some of the cornerstones of the business with it.
“After a few years, we realized that we would never get the volume up — and it’s a volume game,” said John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry. “And so we made that pivotal shift to a software-only company and focus on security and cyber and things of that sort.”
While it stopped manufacturing phones, it didn’t go far from the industry.
“Currently, BlackBerry has two main business units, a cybersecurity business unit and an IoT business unit within the cybersecurity business unit,” said Charles Eagen, chief technology officer of BlackBerry.
Its cybersecurity unit focuses on securing things such as smartphone applications and mobile banking websites. Its internet of things unit focuses on the communication of technology within connected and autonomous cars.
“We now have the lion’s share of embedded software in most of the cars,” Chen said.
BlackBerry’s technology is in roughly 215 million cars and this side of BlackBerry is continuing to grow, according to the company.
“If we look at the industry opportunity itself, it’s our expectation that the auto software industry is going to roughly triple in size from 2020 through 2030,” said Luke Junk, senior analyst at Baird.
However, BlackBerry does face competition in the cybersecurity industry, and in 2021 its revenue from cybersecurity was $500 million.
“I think that the company can reach likely a lower peak than we’ve seen in the past but a more sustainable growth trajectory and potentially more profitable future as well on a margin percentage basis,” Junk said.
CNBC visited BlackBerry’s Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center and interviewed Chen to find out what’s next for the company.