New COO at BlackBerry another sign of software focus

By Chris Umiastowski on 22 Jul 2014 11:55 am EDT

Yesterday BlackBerry announced that they've hired a Chief Operating Officer. The company has not had a COO since John Chen took over and cleaned house.

Remember when Thorsten Heins brought in his own management team including COO Kristian Tear who had tremendous experience from Sony Ericsson and Ericsson? Or how about the co-COO structure that worked very well for BlackBerry during its hyper growth phase? They had Don Morrison covering carrier relationships (he was formerly an AT&T guy) and Larry Conlee (an ex-Motorola guy) who was in charge of manufacturing.

When BlackBerry (then Research In Motion) was a hardware story with software as a necessary component it made sense to have hardware-centric chief operating officers. But as the years went by it became clear that BlackBerry didn't have the software expertise it really needed. Sure, it had a bullet proof secure operating system and a fairly reliable (most of the time) NOC. But prior to BlackBerry 10 a core complaint among developers was the quality of tools available. A core complaint of users was the inadequate desktop software. And in many cases BlackBerry had to code core applications like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on their own. It was becoming very clear that BlackBerry needed to evolve into a higher quality software company.

That looks to be the team John Chen is building up thus far and he's following a very specific pattern. He hires people with enterprise software experience who he's also worked with before. He's installing his own guys, people he knows and trusts. The hiring of Marty Beard as COO is another good example of this transition. While I can't speak to the man's track record I can see that his most recent post (CEO of LiveOps) involves selling software to enterprises. LiveOps is a cloud contact centre and customer service solution.

But prior to this Mr. Beard was the president of Sybase 365, a division of Sybase. Recall that Chen was CEO of Sybase starting in late 1998. Then in 2006 Sybase acquired Mobile 365, a mobile and messaging company, and rebranded it as Sybase 365. By September 2010 Sybase 365 had become one of the largest independent SMS exchanges in the world, delivering a trillion messages that year. The enormous growth that Sybase 365 experienced was all under the Presidency of Marty Beard, and all while Chen was CEO of the mother ship.

I like Chen's human resources strategy. He spent a long time at Sybase before it was successfully turned around and sold to SAP. He clearly has the respect of those who used to work for him, and he clearly respects many of those people enough to bring them on as team members at BlackBerry and the best part is, he's not done yet. The hiring of Marty Beard to those onlooking, came out of nowhere so it'll be interesting to see what else comes up.

Topics: BBRY Editorial

Reader comments

New COO at BlackBerry another sign of software focus


Maybe they can get more than one person working on BlackBerry Link. :P

(Sorry, person who works on BlackBerry Link.)

Still waiting for your "official" review and tutorial for your favorite app (Link lol).

Frosty white Q10/

I think very little work is currently put into BB Link... something else is in the works :-)

The fact that former employees have respect for Chen speaks volumes. Watsa made a brilliant move hiring him!

Posted via CB10

Let's not forget about Prem, he brought Chen in and bet the money needed to turn things around. Props to him.

Posted via CB10

Good news... let us hope that BlackBerry can make it... otherwise we need to choice between Apple Microsoft or Google :(

I also think a big thing that Marty will do is improve Customer Service, as that is one of hsi Key responsibilities noted here:

"In a statement, the company said that Mr. Beard will focus on customer service and operations, including BlackBerry 10 application development "

This bodes well since, as you mentioned, he comes from liveops, a customer service company. It has always been BlackBerry's weakest points when compared with Apples great customer service. So if BlackBerry really wants to make a stand or continue to exist in the consumer space, customer care is a needed improvement.

Now the question becomes which customer, the enterprise prosumer or the man on the street consumer

Posted via CrackBerry App

I think in some ways they are the same. The have to convince corporate personnel to select enterprise but then the employee has to choose BBry as his phone of choice for work. If the average employee does not know about BB10 they will choose to bring your own phone as being an an Iphone or an android. So it is important to market so they people see that BBry is still active. A side bonus is that then consumers know it is also active.

The press seems to think this hiring means the end to the hardware division. I don't think it means that it just means software is this guys expertise. Its funny how everyone be!ieves the phone division is going away. If it is then why even think about releasing new product(passport and classic). I just don't see the mentality. If they are getting out of that business why the foxconn deal?. Can someone please tell these press clowns blackberry is still in the hardware business for some time to come. I think they need to be beat over the head with a blackberry passport.

Posted via the Android CrackBerry App!

People think that BlackBerry is getting out of the hardware business because they are getting out of the consumer hardware business (or at least trying to) and want to sell phones as an up sell to their MDM and EMM offerings only. They are only aiming to sell 10 million phones a year. Very few people actually believe that BlackBerry can sell 10 million phones per year without the consumer market. They killed all consumer services, and are not marketing to consumers. These are not good signs for the future of BlackBerry in the hardware business. BlackBerry is pumping out phones that were in the pipeline since before Thor was CEO. We may never see a phone developed by Ron Louks and team at the speed BlackBerry is driving the hardware business off a cliff by having no ecosystem of their own at all. I don't see the phone business surviving. BlackBerry will survive without it

Chris Umi's article put out 18 hours ago and still not many comments. Interesting to see. I'm used to seeing at least 100 comments. Folks still buttsore that this guy wrote about another company and a non BlackBerry favorite phone? Lol....


This affirms the software focus of the company and Marty is a good fit, even companies need customer/client service as BlackBerry will be their EMM vendor.

Posted via CB10

I tried to comment when the article was fresh but the comment page kept freezing on me, so I gave up. Might have happened to others as well. Chris' choice is one that's been made by many others for legitimate reasons. It's an unfortunate sign of the times. Hopefully the company will have a solution that meets his needs again someday.

Posted via CB10

Yeah, strange. Just a week ago, his article on the Apple-IBM deal got a very high number of responses. That article, like this one, show Umiastowski at his best, where he gives important background colour that no one else covered. In the earlier article, he was the only commentator who said anything about IBM's earlier purchase of Fiberlink, and how it had already been in the business of delivering cross-platform MDM for the past year. This time, the details on Beard's background with LiveOps and before that with Sybase 365 were not presented in a whole lot of mainstream articles on his move to BlackBerry.

What I'd like to see is BlackBerry offer individual cloud-based service with individual cloud-based bes service that integrates with the majority of cloud-based PM services. I.e outlook, icloud and others like it. I'd like to see could based storage that is also more fully integrated with current offerings such as Dropbox, box, one drive, mega etc as well as BlackBerry's own offering. Not all BlackBerry owners need a bes but would love to have bes like security of their own.

Posted via CB10

The fact that a CEO creates a COO position means that there are a lot of things to do.

Remember when John Chen said about himself that he is open-minded for ideas and solutions, but once he has set his mind, he will harshly disregard anything that shifts from his objectives.
His objectives are set, so he chooses his sidekicks, and the third one is this COO.

Of course, a CEO/COO tandem only works if there is complete trust and boundaries between the two persons, and Chen choose well.


The real question is, what will Chen-the-CEO focus on from now on, since it is out of the question he will spend energy doing the same as his COO.

More QNX? More partnerships?

Posted via CB10

Marty Beard is known for his customers centric approach and I am sure his experience and expertise will do the much needed turnaround for BlackBerry which was hitherto missing. Great move by Chen to bring his most trusted lieutenant of Sybase.

Posted via CB10

My speculative take is that Link is not going to be replaced by Blend, but perhaps the "client" on Windows and Mac that allows you to look at content on your handheld will be integrated into Link: you don't want a virus on your computer being able to hack through "Blend Client" and get at private data in memory on your Windows PC and use that to gain access to a BES server or something, so I imagine that Link will have / already has some of this support for rendering handheld data securely on Windows, so adding the Blend functionality (making Link also act as the Blend client) is sensible.

When Blend is available for Windows, my go-to mobile tablet becomes my Dell Venue 8 Pro, running full Windows 8.