BlackBerry cutting staff in smartphone unit

The company will continue to grow customer-facing teams and bring new talent in areas like IoT

BlackBerry plans to lay off an unspecified number of staff in its devices unit, as it attempts to make that business profitable, while expanding in other areas.

The smartphone company in Waterloo, Ontario, said in a statement over the weekend that it had decided to consolidate its device software, hardware and applications business, "impacting a number of employees around the world."

The company said that as it moves into the next stage of its turnaround, it aims to reallocate resources in ways that will "best enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities while driving toward sustainable profitability across all facets of our business."

The company had 6225 full-time employees as of February 28, 2015, the end of its last fiscal year.

BlackBerry launched in the fiscal year four new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, including the Classic, Passport, Z3 and the Porsche Design P'9983, but the share of the BlackBerry OS has been on the decline, and was 0.3 per cent of the market in the first quarter of this year, according to research firm IDC.

The company is trying to expand in new businesses beyond devices, such as enterprise markets and security. It launched, for example, BES12, a cross-platform enterprise mobility management technology, and announced a partnership with Samsung Electronics to integrate BES12 with Galaxy smartphones and tablets that are embedded with Samsung's Knox security technology.

It also unveiled the BlackBerry IoT Platform, initially targeting the automotive and asset tracking industries, in a bid to get a share of the market for small wirelessly-connected devices.

BlackBerry said in March it was completing its transition to an operating unit organizational structure consisting of the device business, enterprise services, business technology and messaging, as it builds its higher margin businesses.

The company said in the statement that it must also grow software and licensing revenue. It said it will continue to grow its customer-facing teams around the world, as well as make investments to bring in new talent "to support areas of strategic focus around software, enterprise, security and Internet of Things, for example."

BlackBerry has recently acquired Secusmart, a provider of voice and data encryption and anti-eavesdropping technology for government organizations, enterprises and telecommunications service providers, and Movirtu, a provider of virtual identity technology for mobile operators.

The company earned about 42 per cent of its $US660 million revenue in the quarter ended February 28 from hardware, 47 per cent from services and 10 per cent from software.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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