BlackBerry hires Ron Louks as new President of Devices

Despite disappointing sales, BlackBerry still sees a future where it can compete with mobile devices

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
January 6, 2014
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BlackBerry's interim CEO, John Chen, has already made it clear that the company, despite seeing hugely disappointing sales last year, still sees a future in which it is selling mobile devices.

It is going to take a lot of work to get consumers, and enterprise clients, back to a place where they see BlackBerry as a viable option against devices made by Apple, Samsung, Nokia and the other manufactuering giants. That means the company needs to hire someone with a lot of experience, and the ability sell the hell out of its devices.

BlackBerry thinks it has found that person, and has hired Ron Louks as its new President of its Devices and Emerging Solutions group, it was announced on Monday. 

Louks is joining BlackBerry from The OpenNMS Group, where he served as its Chief Executive Officer.  Prior to that, Ron held many leadership positions over several decades in the technology industry, including as the Chief Strategy Officer of HTC America Inc. and the Chief Technology Officer at Sony Ericsson.

“I am pleased to add another outstanding addition to BlackBerry’s executive leadership team with the announcement of Ron today,” Chen said in a statement.  “I am confident that Ron will bring the skills and expertise that will make an immediate impact to BlackBerry and to our customers around the world.”

In his new position, Louks will be focusing on BlackBerry’s long-term product roadmap, including hardware, software and design, as well as the Company’s joint development efforts. He will be spending the majority of his time with customers, carriers and partners.

"On our path to return BlackBerry to profitability, nothing is more important than remaining deeply connected to our customers, and designing and delivering secure products that exceed their expectations," Chen said.

Louks has his work cut out for him after 2013 was a massively disappointing year for sales of BlackBerry devices.

The company unveiled its latest operating system, BlackBerry 10, in January of last year. It came along with two new devices: the Z10 and the Q10, which hit U.S. stores in March.

Sales of the two devices were disappointing, to say the least. 

BlackBerry sold a total of 2.7 million BB 10 OS handsets in the June quarter, when many had predicted BlackBerry would sell at a good three million Z10 devices alone. But that 2.7 million figure includes both Z10 and Q10 sales. Altogether, BlackBerry’s BB 10 devices made up just 40% of its total handset sales, which means most of its sales were cheaper, older devices.

Sales have been so abysmal, in fact, that the company has decided to cancel two new smartphones that it had tentatively planned to release in 2014.

Despite all of that, Chen is not giving up on being able to sell mobile devices, even if it might make more sense for the company to become more like Android: focusing on the software part of the equation, rather than the hardware.

In order to streamline its device models, though, BlackBerry has already begun to to turn its attention away from North America and toward international markets.

The company is already targeting Indonesia, via a deal with Foxconn, a manufacturer of electronic products and components.

"Leveraging Foxconn's scale and efficiency will also allow us to compete more effectively and create speed to market since we can design for faster product life cycles," Chen said in an op-ed for CNBC written last week.

"With a partner dedicated to our hardware, BlackBerry can focus on what we do best—iconic design, world-class security, software development and enterprise-mobility management."

Now its up Louks to turn around BlackBerry's floundering devices.

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