The will they or won’t they question about BlackBerry’s intentions to continue making phones appears to have an answer. As the company made a key hire in the hardware department, leaked images of new devices are circulating on the web.
BlackBerry has hired Alex Thurber as Senior Vice President, Global Device Sales, implying that the company still sees a future in its hardware division, despite lackluster sales and advice from investors to concentrate on its more profitable enterprise software and security division.
This news comes a day after the leak of images of what appear to be new BlackBerry phones, likely mid-market BlackBerry-branded phones running on the Android operating system, reflecting a need to deliver an inexpensive of the well-reviewed but poorly selling high-end Priv.
Thurber’s stated goal will be to make BlackBerry’s device business profitable, leading the company’s global device sales organization, responsible for field sales, carrier sales management and sales operations.
He comes to BlackBerry from a VP of worldwide sales role at Seattle-based security solutions vendor WatchGuard Technologies Inc., which specializes in integrated network security firewall products and services for small and medium organizations and distributed enterprises.
“At WatchGuard, I engineered a complete sales turnaround, helping the company move from declining revenue to six straight quarters of year over year growth, including the largest quarterly and annual revenue in the company’s history,” said Thurber to BlackBerry’s company blog.
During Thurber’s two and a half years at WatchGuard, the company went from declining revenues to six consecutive quarters of year-on-year growth.
Thurber has also worked for Tripwire, founded his own network solutions and security company, Thurber Works, headed worldwide channels and commercial sales operations at McAfee, and takes credit for rebuilding Cisco Systems’ Japanese channel organization.
BlackBerry plans to add staff to its field sales operations, says Thurber, to build relationships with the company’s enterprise customers, and to help BlackBerry connect with new customers.
“This includes being innovative with our selling models – getting new types of partners and defining new routes to market,” says Thurber.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen recently teased the development of two mid-range phones, speaking to The National in Dubai, to follow what he now regards as a strategic mistake with the Priv, admitting that the phone “was too high-end a product”.
“The fact that we came out with a high end phone [as our first Android device] was probably not as wise as it should have been,” said Chen. “A lot of enterprise customers have said to us, ‘I want to buy your phone but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device’.
“If I can’t make it profitable because the market won’t let me, then I’ll get out of the handset business,” he said. “I love our handset business, but we need to make money.”
Leaked pictures of the alleged new mid-market BlackBerrys are circulating on the web.