BlackBerry CEO on canceling BlackBerry Live: "For 2014 we decided to spend the money differently"

BlackBerry Live
By Kevin Michaluk on 14 Jan 2014 11:01 am EST

During our CES interview with BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, we asked him about the cancelation of this year's BlackBerry Live event. Here's what he had to say:

For  2014 we decided to spend the money differently and focus on a more targeted audience - CIOs of the regulated industry that we talk about, or hosting a symposium on Wall Street. We'll do those types of things and support maybe some CEO conferences like the Fortune, the Gartner, something of that sort. This is so we can speak directly to the people that need to learn, "Oh wow, they're doing this end-to-end and stuff." That's part of how the marketing will support the sales, support the strategy, and that technology needs to complement it.

As a fan of BlackBerry Live, formerly BlackBerry World, formerly the Wireless Enterprise Symposium, I'm obviously more than a little sad to see the BIGGEST BlackBerry event of the year get stricken from the calendar. That said, I think the decision is a logical one given where things are at for BlackBerry, and also given that their go forward strategy is to embrace all platforms. BlackBerry needs to take that message to where the people are already going, vs. attract them to a BlackBerry conference. For 2014 it makes sense.

When the news first came out that BlackBerry Live was canceled for 2014, I sort of joked that maybe I should put on a conference in 2014 to fill the void. I'm really thinking I should maybe do it. Timing is getting tight, but if I made the GO decision in the next week or two, I think we could host a kick-ass mobile conference (Talk Mobile 2014?!) in early May. I'm thinking Toronto as a venue. Instead of going to the USA per usual, we could do something north of the border. It's a close flight for people from NYC. And there's a huge hub of mobile tech in the in Toronto and surrounding regions. Year One could be fairly small and still be a success - aim for 500 people at $1000 a head, get some sponsors, and we could make it happen. Let me know what you think in the comments!!!


Missed our Interview with BlackBerry CEO? Read it Here: Part I and Part II

Reader comments

BlackBerry CEO on canceling BlackBerry Live: "For 2014 we decided to spend the money differently"


LOL. Also Blackberry as a brand is hated (one of the top 10 most hated companies in America, don't worry McDonalds is on the list too and that make $$) so I agree with Chen that this type of non-targeted spending is a waste.

That would be a splendid idea Kevin. You could also have a contest to go with it and award a trip for 2 with VIP access, flights, accommodation, $500 spending money, and a device of the winner's choice. It could be run on each Mobile Nations site with a sponsor for each one.

I'd love to go to a mini-BlackBerry Live! My first (and sadly last) was 2013 and it was something I was really looking forward to in 2014. Plus, I live in Toronto so no 2-day bus trip back from Orlando! Toronto is also a hub with a major airport. I say do it!

If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain. =). Makes sense.

Posted via CB10

It's an English proverb. In this context: if your customers don't come to you, go to where your customers are...

Posted via CB10

What other name would you use since it is about Mohammed?

The full phrase is "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammed must go to the mountain." Muhammed went up Mt. Hera where supposedly the angel Gabriel spoke to him, making him the prophet of Islam. The point of the saying is that you have to take action if you want anything to happen. The mountain wasn't going to come to Muhammed; he had to go to it.

You see, you have this mat, with different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO!

I hope this helps explaining it.

Posted while peeking and flowing on my incredible BBQ10! 

I like the idea, but I won't be going. To far and to costly for me... wouldn't have gone to the BlackBerry event either though. Talk Mobile 2014 sounds good!

Posted via CB10

Depending on when it is, Toronto is too cold to make it attractive. I say host it in Florida.

Posted via CB10

You know what will happen Kevin? The event will be a BIG success and you'll have to do it again next year! Just sayin... :-)

Go Black and Never Go Back.

BlackBerry events have been unsuccessful at attracting smartphone users and developers in recent years. The marketing efforts can benefit from some of the money.

Posted via CB10

Talk Mobile 2014 sounds interesting - would like to get more information about it if you intend to make it happen.

Toronto over NYC??? I would think NYC would be a better place to reach out to and invite a much broader audience. But I could be wrong.

Kevin...start an email service or something of that sort...

Rocking the Z30 Regina SK Canada

You know where you can get advertizement made. I sure you remember the contest for making a commercial. Get those folks together and get airtime!

Posted via CB10

You are joking right? Never been in Toronto in the summer? Or are you one of those that brings skis to Canada in July? Whatever, Toronto is warm enough to host a conference.

The conference idea is a good one but you probably need a specific theme/focus to attract people and sponsors.

Posted via CB10

Wow. Just wow.

We will have to build an extra large igloo to fit all of those people too. Maybe we'll have some polar bears playing hockey against the beavers outside, on the frozen pond.

I have a two storey igloo with a spare room. You have to share it with my polar bear though eh. We can drink real beer together too eh!

Imagine a BlackBerry event in Canada! ;)

From my new z30

Why there? do it somewhere where people care so somewhere in the middle of nowhere in canada

Posted via Nexus 7 2013

I'm wondering if BlackBerry Jam will continue for developers?

BlackBerry can utilise this to showcase the new devices

Posted via CB10

I definitely still want a developer conference. It doesn't even need to be extravagant or expensive. The #1 draw of those events to me is the networking opportunities, with BlackBerry employees and the rest of the dev community.

Posted via CB10

Sounds like a good idea but maybe it should be open to the general public with some restrictions.

Good idea. Definitely want a "public" component too.  If we do a sponsor showcase, where companies can show off their products, etc., we'd definitely want a lot of people going through there.


Have a trade show. Where company can show off there products.
I am going to a vet conference in TO at the end of this month.

Kevin, something that might work is a larger public/enthusiast/trade show, held ALONGSIDE a BlackBerry developer event. I would hope they'd at least kick in a little sponsorship money.

Maybe something along the model of the Mac World events that weren't actually run by Apple, but that they had some involvement in.

Posted from CB10 running on my awesome Z30

Lmao if they hosted it in Vegas it would be three times as expensive. But I like the idea of varying levels of passes - the higher the access, the higher the cost. Get tech companies to sponsor; run contests. Special section for developers so they can work on app development right there, like a mini-Jam session.

Maybe spend some money on advertising....oh I don't know, maybe BB10, or BBM.

Just a thought. BBRY talked about how much "traction" BBM had, well imagine if they actually got the word out that BBM is now available on iOS & Android.

Adding of BBM contacts for me has dried up. In addition, I find myself only really conversing with a few of my BBM contacts. I don't see it (as of now) as either my nor their preffered method of messaging.

Kevin - anything that BlackBerry did in the past needs to be "scrutinized" for "efficiency of investment and returns on that investment".... Obviously, "BlackBerry Live" did not pass the test...Good for Change, Chen....

Funny! I lived in the Minneapolis area for 12 years. I used to get depressed in May because I knew it would be getting cold soon.

Good call, Mr. Chen. BlackBerry Live does not do much other than make BlackBerry seem out of touch with the reality if their market position.

Posted via CB10

Sooo interested! Get BlackBerry as a sponsor! I'll be coming if you host it!! 1000 per ticket seems a little steep though

Posted via CB10 on my  Q10

Do $500 and a location a can drive no more than 6 hours from Atlanta, and I'm in...

STA100-5 White Z30 ,Tmobile, USA

We have airports up here, eh.

Vancouver, or Victoria is better. So close to Seattle = a great experience.

Do it!


Take that money that was going to be spent on this and go take some CIO and tech gear heads from some companies out for lunch and "share the new BlackBerry Vision".....

Or use it to better train people going out to represent carriers in the USA... The guy at my Verizon store told me that the BlackBerry bus pulled up to the store and the people who got off of it did not even know how to use the Z30 to show it to people.... "Thanks" Mssr. Francois Boulben...

Well, just being realistic. If we can get more sponsors, can lower attendee cost. 

Will do the research today. Could be something good.

I completely disagree with Chen on this one. Blackberry already has pretty much no advertising to speak of and now they want to have some back door meetings with some corporate people. Are they ever going to get it that their fans matter too? It's not just business executives.

Posted via CB10

I have to disagree with you on this. The last few BlackBerry Worlds were absolute duds. Nothing new or earth-shattering ever came up that we didn't already know about for months. Surprises we were promised never happened. The press always had a collective yawn at the end. Not the kind of "advertising" BlackBerry needed.

Certainly not what they need now with nothing new to offer.

They are still in the reorganization process and Chen is still redefining the company. What exactly would they be talking about at such a conference at this time?

Chen is trying to reestablish the company with the enterprise, first - and that's understandable. You don't need a big revenue-draining conference for that. You go to the target directly.

Do smaller conferences for developers when you've reestablished your goals.

Worry about big conferences when you actually have something to show the world and is worth the time.

Posted via CB10

Get some CEOs / CIOs to buy a few 10000 phones for their company, just like Peugeot did a while ago. Don't forget BES CALS, either!

Then you have cash + something to talk about and then will you host conferences again.

Good move!

My name is Prem, I'm using BBM ... from my QuZe10 ...whatarhyme...

This event would have gotten a lot of people excited. Not to mention the press they would get from it.

Posted via CB10

Call me stupid if you want but $1000 a head for general public to go or for sponsors...I'm confused but that's nothing new lol

...we are all connected...

Maybe BlackBerry should sponsor you full time, you have done more to sell the brand than most of their sales team.

Posted via CB10

Won't say no to money! Plus, you know, I'd probably just spend it on more BBs.. kinda want that $25k P'9981. Wonder if they'll do a gold P'9982?!

It's indeed a good idea I think. Just spend the money where all the people (read: different OS-buyers go). Get all the consumers :) cross-platform marketing instead of single platform isolation.

C0038297E Quote of the Day (BBM Channel)

Ps: the event looks a good plan if executed well and fast. You don't have a lot of time left!

C0038297E Quote of the Day (BBM Channel)

I'd rather see BlackBerry do something at Google I/O. Their presence there would certainly make a larger splash than BlackBerry Live, by themselves in Florida.

Price tag pretty high, but with the amount that goes on down the 401 in Waterloo with mobile (not talking BlackBerry but amount of startups ect) would probably attract a lot of people.

Posted via CB10

Sounds like a great idea and would def go!
I was in Waterloo the last time you guys were in Toronto so I missed out :S.

Suggestion / Question: this my be obvious, but if you do plan on going ahead with this, maybe hold a meet and greet at a bar (sans fee) like you did last time?

I hope they go after small and medium businesses as well. After all, there are many more total employees (and therefore potential phone and other BB service users) in SME's than large enterprise.
Probably as high as twice as many, depending on where you live. Canadian Ref:
I think they should be much more approachable in this space. This may require some back end software mods to be fully realized however.

I may not be in for the entire conference but would be interested in sessions, perhaps option to purchase day passes.

Posted via CB10

Bring the cost down to a realistic 400 and we are talking! Awesome idea! Let's do a blackberry world/live how it should be done! Let's make these forums come to life!

Posted via CB10

Didn't attendees receive a brand new Z-10 at BB Live last year?.....will BB give out free Z-30's? If so, I'm coming for $600 fee similar to last year

Kevin, one man's trash(ed conference) is another's treasure. Take the best of Live and Jams and put it in a small focused setting where there is still support and fill the void. Make it inexpensive for BBRY to participate. Surely there is enough content to cover 2&1/2 days.

Kevin I would say Thailand the heartbeat of the emerging market for Blackberry. Sure at the moment Thailand has some political issues but within the next few months it should clear up.

1. I will personally cover the venue location and possibly the catering and security for the Venue.
2. Bangkok is an amazing place to launch a new show.
3. I will allow the Crackberry team to stay at the venue location condo located for the show.

I feel that area of the world would really make a positive splash for us all.


Define the benefits and THEN decide if the costs are worth it. Everyone here will say "YEAH".... but, you're running a business. Good luck.

Toronto absolutely. Find a venue near a go train stop and us Waterlooites won't have to contend with the 401 traffic.

Looks like the decadent era of giant conventions and giving away free handsets is over for now. And sadly it needs to be.

Posted via CB10

Hey!!! Don't forget about the BlackBerry Addicts in the Prairies!!!! We love Mobile too. I am in.

Rocktauber Approves This Post

Or what about the other side of the Atlantic?
I can understand Chen on this, but I still think it's not such a good idea. Most people don't even really know what blackberry stands for (not the Crackberry community, but people in general who are not using blackberry services/devices). The only thing people know/hear is that the company isn't making any profit and was almost totally dead. In my opinion the brandmarketing should go in overdrive and show the world what BlackBerry stands for...
But hey it's always some kind of a poker game, isn't it?

Ballpark price of 1000$ will be an issue but would love to go. Already in Toronto 5 days a week. What venues are you considering?

Posted via CB10

The idea couldn't be better. But it does nothing to get BlackBerry recognition that's needed in the states.

Now I'm all for it make no mistake about. Cost is a steep for the average. But we know that can be adjusted. And also keep it where it needs to be to include a free gift.

The date should not conflict with BlackBerry World future dates. This is something we will all look forward to every year and plan vacation time around.

I do understand home grounds approach. But something is desperately needed in the states. I haven't come across a single BB10 device outside my circle that I preach BB10 greatness to.

Bottom line is... Have multiple events if at all possible.

Posted via CB10

I do event planning Kevin if you need a sounding board for ideas or help give me a shout back.

Posted via CB10

great idea, Kevin.
you need a Conference App :)
If there will be tracks for developers - I have some ideas for Sessions.

I love the idea! I wonder if other BlackBerry fan sites would want to join in and help get this event off the ground. As a wise man once said: "Let our powers combine! All for one and one for all!"

-for the uninitiated, that's a Captain Planet reference and a Three Musketeers reference rolled into one. Your argument is invalid.

Posted while peeking and flowing on my incredible BBQ10! 

BlackBerry has such a community it would be great to have a venue for that group to get together. If I'm not mistaken, BlackBerry Live was more an opportunity for developers and the business end to network. Having a conference, or an area of that conference that deals strictly with the general public, selling the idea of blackberry, informing current customers of all that BlackBerry is offering and introducing apps and accessories, sounds like a great idea- this of course is not going to happen in the 1000 price point.

Posted with a smile...and a Q10

I would second this. Who is the target audience of this proposed "CrackBerry" conference? Chen already said he thinks there are more effective or cost-efficient ways to reach BlackBerry Live's target a similar event in spite of this seems illogical.

I've been to the two previous events and I have to say I'm really going to miss BlackBerry Live.

Sure, I understand the logic behind cancelling it but I don't have to like it.

Cheers. :)

I'm not sure. There are already other generic mobile events and the void here is a BlackBerry specific event. Nevertheless, the mobile events I'm thinking of are kind of industry folk focused and, recently, are held across the Atlantic in Europe, it seems. You and Mobile Nations do your own brand of mobile for enthusiasts and that might be worth a trip to Toronto for an event.

Posted via CB10

I think it was a bit of a money loser for BlackBerry. Sure it opened BlackBerry up more to the App World Development which has helped but I think it really is a big money loser as BlackBerry applications haven't really taken off as it was initially thought.

Chen is a better CEO and CFO than many BlackBerry Live groupies want to admit. BlackBerry Live only made sense when the company had a market share that was highly profitable. With the refocus on enterprise clients this decision makes total sense. The BlackBerry developers still have their conference though a series of webinars would be less expensive.

Posted via CB10

Nice idea, and Toronto is a great city, but sadly, flights up from the US are quite expensive even with advance purchase, so the total cost will probably limit turnout from your southern neighbors.

Re: A Dev Conf, I figure Mr. Chen also needs to appeal also to corporate developers (and the CIOs who decide on which platforms to develop in-house apps), as well as independent developers of non-corporate apps who we all appreciate. A key marketing message, with the "works" behind it, needs to be a snappier version of "Most productive platform to quickly develop excellent and profitable apps". Alec Saunders has been out of view too much for too long. Need contagious enthusiasm and provable productivity advantages.

Hi Kevin. A Talk Mobile Conference is a great idea, though perhaps May might be a little too early. I know that I would love to attend, but getting tickets, hotel room, and such, would be a little tight for some. Perhaps August would be a good time. However, the final decision lies solely with you. GO FOR IT!!

That gives me until May to save a grand. Do I need a passport too to get into Canada?

I used my Z10 to create this CrackBerry madness!

I don't know if you need a passport to get into Canada, but if you are from the US you will definately need a passport to get back into the States when you decide to come home. It can take a few months to get one so you might want to go ahead and fill out the paperwork and apply. Justify it by thinking you never know when you could win a trip to Cancun or someplace tropical and that way you'll be ready. Can you tell I'm tired of snow and cold lol :) My vote is for Winnipeg also. Any city tourism would likely work with someone organizing an event like this because it's potential dollars for the local economy.

Blackberry LIVE should be about software & its developers + BB accessories (products, manufacturers) - not just hardware and OS presentations in BB phones. BBerry NEEDS the community- it's not just marketing and sales.

Does spend the money differently this year mean make phones with competition crushing features like 4000mAh batteries, 4gigs of ram and market them appropriately?

Or are we gonna keep moving forward getting out featured by the competition. Just sayin...

Posted via CB10

I think this would be a great idea either in early May or June (late May conflicts with many other events).

Toronto would be a great location... but I think $1,000 might be a bit steep for a new conference... I'm not sure what that price would include?

At $500-600 I'd be totally on board.

This could be really cool!

Posted via CB10

Better! What did BlackBerry Live actually accomplish!? Granted once upon a time it might have been a venue to access information, exchange and debate innovate and plan etc.

But in the waning years of BlackBerry it had just become a self congratulatory circle-jerk, completely detached from reality, where Jim Balsilille , Mike Lazaridis and the other stooges including the Cryptkeeper aka Pringle Watsahisname and later on Thorsten Heins Ketchup, could spew their nonsense and keep pretending that their company was not in the shitter!

The idea of a fan/customer driven event makes soo much more sense! After all we are the ones who choose to spend our hard earned cash and take our chances with this company and its products. Who better to understand a BlackBerry user than another BlackBerry user?!

Cartman says: Screw you guys I'm going home!

Canceling some events that you don't have something to present is an indeed good decision... and making an event for presenting something that awesome is much better...

Posted via CB10

Fantastic Idea!! Would definitely attend and would definitely help in setting up if needed!

Posted via CB10

I apologize if this has been mentioned.... time constraints. There will be a contest to win a trip up for this right? hint hint. The what would you do for a Z10 thing was fun!

Plus, Ottawa is cheaper than Toronto. You could save on hotels and it is short flight on from Toronto or Montreal with direct flights from most American cities.

When they can get each carrier or store they have their product in, promoted to the public or marketed fully and properly, to show People how good they are, THEN if and when they sell any, the could then think of hosting these kind of events.

What is the use of hosting these events if you are doing zilch to promote your own product in the stores? Seriously.

Everywhere I go, none of BlackBerry's phones are promoted or marketed correctly, demo phones aren't even functional!

At virtually every Canadian store I have been at in my travels, I see zero working models, and the Z30 has been out for quite some time now, and still are not common.

They sure do make sure that the iPhone are fully up and running though. Oh yeah. Gotta push those for all it's worth.

But not BlackBerry. Why? It’s the company's fault.

Posted Via Z10

$1000/ person is a go F yourself if BlackBerry us the only focus heck even with all four major mobile os'.

Kevin you could do a great show but offering more than lip (a good talk and conversation I mean nor disrespectful), aftermarket products, and a mobile OS. There's a LIT more you'll need to offer than just simply all of this for $1000/person. Most importantly since the competition and even Rogers Wireless holds a year symposium for free every year.

You gotta think this through and maybe wait to see what major services BlackBerry offers in 2014 and get ready for 2015.

Co sides the sponsors and how they fit I ot the whole Co defence you intend to hold and how they cater to attendees. However you now mentioning you want to do this after two I ter views with JC and BlackBerry Live being cancelled reals of a tongue and check nudge from JC himself asking for you to do this.

Weapon of choice Z10, Full Metal CB10!

Change is not easy to surpass but I believe Mr. Chen made the right decision to suspend BlackBerry Live and I honestly don't think it would be wise to start another Kevin. I'm thinking that the media should be in the dark about BlackBerry as much as possible right now.

Keep The Faith  BlackBerry Q10 

I think that this conference would have to be more of a 'Mobile Nations' conference, and not just a BlackBerry centric conference....

I would donate a couple bucks through PayPal for this. Got to get the word out. I think you should go to malls and rent a space and do a blackberry serene kind of like what Samsung and has best buy. Stay st a mall once a week or something definitely would chip in for this.

Posted via CB10

This is what I love about the BlackBerry community! This "glass half full" mentality that sees the cancellation of BlackBerry Live as an opportunity to do a fan-driven event rather than another letdown. From my perspective BlackBerry needs to tap into the enthusiasm of their fans, do more to draw them closer rather than distance themselves.

Ending the gratuitous pay off to criminals like S4BB is hardly an unwise decision.

This entire 'app buying lalapalooza' remains one of Blackberry's most horrendous episodes of corporate waste under Heins and CO.

Ending that sort of behavior shows the new found seriousness of Chen.

Maybe he can fire Alex and the rockband next?

Posted via CB10

Sounds like a good idea. $1000 a head to fill the void is a little pricey, you'll need an all star line up to justify the fee.

Posted via CB10

There was an annual food and wine event at the Highlands Inn in Carmel CA. After many very successful years the Highlands Inn decided not to continue. That left a gap as you call it. A former manager of the Highlands teamed up with a local businessman and formed the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event. It was a smash the very first year and growing ever since. You really don't know until you try.

Have the event in Vancouver in May or June. Change the name to Talk Mobile & Beer Festival 2014. Guaranteed 1,000 turn up for this event. Any event planners willing to assist Mighty Kevin et al?

couldn't compete with Apple. therefore couldn't pay staff, therefore had to layoff.
So much for blackberry live.
they are going to change the company logo to an apple.

I'm in Calgary, may not be able to attend live, but would encourage this. I'd even put some cash towards helping out. Say $1500.00.

Another thought might be to have some virtual get togethers. Feel free to tweet / email me (@bizdudePB)