BlackBerry CEO John Chen on the company's plans to revive its hardware business
End of days for BB OS 10. New mid-range Android phones in the offing: CEO John ChenReuters

BlackBerry has a robust plan to reinvent itself in the smartphone business, following slowing demand for its phones in the highly-competitive market. In recent interviews, the company's CEO, John Chen, revealed a new strategy that could help BlackBerry transform its hardware business into a profitable one.

Chen expressed his plans to launch two mid-range Android-based smartphones this year during his interviews with the publications, The National, ET Telecom and The Hindu. Chen acknowledged the fact that its flagship Priv smartphone is priced too high to tap into the mobile phone market, which has a vast majority of mid to low-end devices. The two new mid-range phones would sell for around $300-$400.

"There is a void at the high-end segment. So I thought the marriage between Android and our strengths such as security, enterprise features, encryption features would be great," Chen told The Hindu during an interview this week. "But though people who use it, see it — they love it, it has not been working out well for us so far. Reason — high pricing."

For BlackBerry, Chen said, India is going to be one of its top 10 markets. The company is hiring people and has signed partners for enterprise mobility to expand its distribution network, which is currently weak despite a strong portfolio of "great products," Chen said.

While Chen remained confident about turning around the company's ailing hardware business, which is still about 30 percent of its total business, he also said the company would not continue if the segment would not turn profits.

"Since I started at the company [in November 2013] I've been saying I'll make the handset business profitable. If I can't make it profitable because the market won't let me, then I'll get out of the handset business," Chen told The National. "I love our handset business, but we need to make money."

Chen also assured its users that BB10 is not dead yet. The company has several customers from different governments who rely on the security of the BB10 software. The company jumped on the Android bandwagon with its Priv smartphone to leverage the largely untapped segment of secured Android market.

Chen said the company is working on BB10.3.3, which is to receive certification in June, and it is working on BB10.3.4 due out next year.

Mapping the company's plans in a nutshell, Chen told the Hindu that, "I have to get device profitable. I have to maintain the lead on software to grow it as 30 percent compared to a 20 percent growth in market. We have to remain cash flow positive that gives us ability to stay and give time to execute and ability to invest."