Three long, ugly years of massive job cuts are finally over at the struggling Canadian company, once the pioneering leader of the smartphone pack. Chief executive John Chen heralded the good news in an internal memo to employees obtained by Thomson Reuters yesterday.
"We have completed the restructuring notification process, and the workforce reduction that began three years ago is now behind us," Chen said in an email to workers last Friday. Finally, the very last of his axes has fallen.
Chen also announced in the note that the Waterloo, Ontario-based company plans to add new hires in customer service, sales and product development, though only in “modest numbers” and “barring any unexpected downturns in the market.”
An estimate of how many people will be onboarded is not yet known. BlackBerry said it would not provide further comment at this time.
Chen, widely recognized for bringing Sybase Inc. back from the brink during his 1997-2012 term at the enterprise software firm, also underscored in the memo that the company is gearing up for more strategic acquisitions. In another push toward a comeback, BlackBerry last week acquired Secusmart, a German high-security voice and data encryption firm that specializes in anti-eavesdropping solutions for government agencies, telecommunications and enterprise-level businesses.
With sales deeply dented by the meteoric popularity of Apple and Android handsets, BlackBerry slashed its headcount by approximately 60 percent over the past three years in an uphill fight to reclaim its former CrackBerry glory. The extended layoffs didn’t come as a shock. According to Re/code, the company had warned that it would shrink its ranks from its 2011 max of more than 17,500 to 7,000.
In closing, Chen cautioned employees that there is “no margin for error to complete BlackBerry’s turnaround to success.” He also urged them to hunker down as the company prepares to launch new hardware (including two QWERTY-outfitted smartphones, the super bulky Passport and the throwback Classic) and overhauled versions of existing software in the coming months.
Remember way back when BlackBerry was still quasi-cool, when global mega stars like Madonna and Alicia Keys stumped for it? Chen, who recently predicted that BlackBerry’s chances of survival are “better than 80/20,” isn’t sure the once-iconic brand will ever blow up that big again, but he’s not throwing in the towel.
"Whether it’s going to be good enough to be iconic again, OK, that’s something I need to chew on,” Chen recently admitted in a Bloomberg TV interview. “I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Meanwhile, BlackBerry announced today that its Secure Work Space solution has received vital security clearance from the Defense Information Systems Agency. The approval greenlights U.S. Department of Defense personnel to use rival iOS and Android smartphones and tablets connected to its BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 system.
Hailed for its exceptional security, BlackBerry has long been a top smartphone of choice for high-ranking executives and government officials the world over, the most prominent being President Barack Obama.
Despite earlier reports, the commander-in-chief hasn’t dumped his National Security Agency-modified BlackBerry yet, but this key government thumbs-up could have him more seriously weighing options from Samsung and LG. The Secret Service won’t let him use an iPhone, his daughters’ favorite smartphone, for “security reasons.