New BlackBerry (BBRY) COO could bring much-needed changes

Bryan CronanThe Christian Science Monitor

BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) announced Monday that Marty Beard will take over as chief operating officer. 

Mr. Beard is taking over the position that has been empty since former COO Kristian Tear left last November during a management shake-up. In his new role, Beard will be in charge of BlackBerry 10 application development, customer care, and quality.

"BlackBerry continues to attract top talent to the company. Marty brings extensive experience in operations, marketing and serving customers through the best technologies and processes available," current CEO John Chen said in a statement. 

Brant Moriarty, a lecturer at Indiana's Kelley School of Business, praised BlackBerry's hire. "Beard has been around for a while and has done great things," he says.

Beard is coming to BlackBerry during a difficult time. Though the company  made an unexpected profit of $23 million during the first quarter of this year, much of that profit came from efforts to cut cost and not from increased sales for its new BlackBerry 10 series of devices. That small profit comes after a loss of $423 million in the last quarter of 2013. 

But hiring Beards could be an indication that BlackBerry acknowledges its need for big changes. His background, as the chairman of the computing application company LiveOps,  ay hint at BlackBerry is shifting its focus away from mobile devices towards bring their secure services to other sectors. 

"Beard's focus on cloud technology [could] be good for BlackBerry," Moriarty said. "They seems to have been pushed out of the hardware sector, and it looks like BlackBerry knows that."

The company has struggled in recent years to create devices that appeal to consumers, and the announcement of an Apple and IBM partnership on July 15, in which IBM will sell Apple products to enterprise clients, could take away some of the business who use BlackBerry.

The partnership "will hurt BlackBerry," said Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner Research. Mr. Dulaney said professional consumers who were thinking about switching from BlackBerry now have a viable option. "Now IBM has deep integration with Apple and most enterprises will look to IBM for their needs."

That could be “the nail in the coffin” for BlackBerry’s consumer products, Moriarty says. "That’s why the announcement of a new COO is good for BlackBerry [if they change focus].”

Investors don't seem to be too thrilled with the announcement of Beard's hirer. By early afternoon on Monday, BlackBerry stock was down almost 1 percent to $9.95 a share.