BlackBerry Ltd.’s True Potential Is Unfolding and it’s Great

Stop asking about devices already.

That was the answer that reporters were met with when asking BlackBerry Ltd. (TSX:BB)(NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO John Chen about future devices this week. BlackBerry is hosting a security summit this week in New York that is focused on the software and services side of the company.

When asked about devices during the security summit, Chen responded cleverly by stating, “If I come to you with a billion dollar software business with a 70% margin, you’d never ask me about handsets.” While this had the immediate effect of silencing the all-too-curious at the Q&A session, it did spark a flash of what the company has in store for the future, and it seems to have little to do with devices.

BlackBerry’s strategy

BlackBerry is in the midst of one of the most widely covered turnaround stories in business. The company is primarily recognized as being the inventor of the smartphone, but it lost the hardware battle to competitors running Android and iOS over the past few years.

The truth of the matter, however, is that BlackBerry is primarily a software and services company that happened to make devices to run that software for almost 20 years. The company’s niche has always been on the enterprise market and security, and BlackBerry is focusing more than ever on selling that as the key product rather than devices.

That’s not to say BlackBerry won’t be releasing other devices. The Android-powered Priv that debuted late last year is still for sale at a discounted price, and two new devices are set to be announced over the next few weeks.

BlackBerry’s focus on security and, more specifically, on offering an end-to-end secure platform are brilliant ways to advance the company to the next level. Through a variety of acquisitions made over the past two years, BlackBerry has maintained and strengthened its position as a premier provider of enterprise solutions, secure messaging, and as a technology solutions provider.

Bridging all of these pieces together results in a secure end-to-end platform for the company that would have been inconceivable 18 months ago. Once BlackBerry’s new cyber-security business is thrown into the mix, you can begin to see where Chen makes reference to a 70% margin.

The future is in software and services

Software and services have always made up a large portion of BlackBerry’s bottom line, but what many pundits have overlooked is the growth of that sector over past few quarters. While investors have been conditioned to look for new devices and revenue stemming from the hardware division, software and services have quietly crept up over the past few quarters to account for a third of all revenue from the company.

Given the initiatives the company has made over the past year to both expand the umbrella of services offered in the cyber-security realm as well as the mobile enterprise management market, this figure is likely to continue growing over the next few quarters, surpassing that of hardware sales.

More evidence of this continued shift came about this week as BlackBerry announced a five-year deal with the U.S. government to broadcast emergency notifications for the U.S. Senate’ there’s also an expanded deal of this kind for the U.S. Coast Guard. While details of that deal were not disclosed, it is likely measured in the millions.

In my opinion, BlackBerry represents a great opportunity for investors–as a software and services company. But as long as the public still sees the company as a hardware-first company, the stock will represent a risky investment for some.

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Fool contributor Demetris Afxentiou has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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