BlackBerry: Does John Chen Mean A Software Tack?

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Former CEO of Sybase, John Chen, was handed the reins of BlackBerry on Monday as former BlackBerry CEO, Thorsten Heins, bowed out. Where the traditional hardware company will steer next will be up to Chen, a widely respected and successful executive, historically focused on software.

"Changing out CEOs, I think it makes some sense," Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told CRN. "John Chen is a bit puzzling because he's not a hardware guy. That may mean they are going to focus on making BlackBerry a software company."

Chen became COO of Sybase in 1997 before becoming CEO just one year later. At the time, Sybase was floundering as an enterprise database business, attempting to compete with Oracle and similar database software companies. Under Chen's leadership, the company integrated mobility and business analytics software into its lineup and continued to experience growth.


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In July of 2010, Sybase was sold for $5.8 billion to SAP with Chen stepping down from his Sybase post shortly after.

Other ventures seen on Chen's resume, according to a BlackBerry statement, include executive positions at a variety of computing and technology companies, including Siemens AG, Pyramid Technology and Burroughs. Currently, Chen serves as director of Wells Fargo and Co. and The Walt Disney Company.

President and primary analyst at J. Gold Associates Jack Gold said Chen's software background is not enough to forecast the direction he will take BlackBerry.

"He is a manager first and foremost," Gold said. Gold added BlackBerry is truly three separate businesses: hardware, services and a social business with its messenger service, BBM.

"[Chen] is an executive that can focus on all three of them," Gold said.

NEXT: The Uphill Road Ahead

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