BlackBerry isn’t hosting its own big annual conference this year, the company announced Friday (via MobileSyrup). The event has been called various things, including BlackBerry World, and BlackBerry Live once the World name became what BlackBerry called its mobile app store and things got confusing. This is the first year since 2002 that BlackBerry hasn’t held one of these big events, and it’s a sign of the change taking place at the company under new CEO John Chen.
Chen was forthright and free when discussing his plans for the company at the recent investor call and meet-and-greet with reporters following BlackBerry’s disastrous Q4 2014 results. He laid out his plans and his new division of BlackBerry’s lines of business in lots of detail. He also talked at length regarding BlackBerry’s new manufacturing partnership with Foxconn, which will essentially see it take a back seat to hardware design and creation, allowing BlackBerry to focus more exclusively on the software side of the equation.
The company said this move will allow it to focus on running a number of smaller, more targeted events throughout the year, aimed at specific audiences. BlackBerry Live was more of a general wrap, similar in many ways to Apple’s WWDC and Google’s I/O, in that while much of it is aimed at developers, it also gives the executive team a chance to trot out their plans for the year on stage and reveal them to an appreciative audience.
BlackBerry cancelling this event feels like a particular blow to its devices plans. These events are often the perfect place to showcase hardware, and former CEO Thorsten Heins talked future hardware plans at the last one, hinting at what would eventually become the Z30 (as well as some kind of hybrid computing device that never materialized). Ditching the big annual event decreases the opportunity to build hype around devices, but BlackBerry is clearly moving in a direction where device hype isn’t quite the priority it once was.
Chen said that BlackBerry remains committed to devices, and the Foxconn partnership is the first step towards making it sustainable and successful again, but I still see it as a side bet. Chen was careful to note that while the Foxconn deal is something he agrees with, he wasn’t the one who put the wheels in motion on that arrangement. It started under previous management, though he did help architect it. Devices isn’t the focus for Chen or the company going forward, in my opinion, and dropping the big splashy annual event is another sign that BlackBerry has more important things to worry about than making phones that are off the pace of the global smartphone market.
Illustration: Bryce Durbin