For years, BlackBerry had played a role in the auto market's infotainment division, a space shared with others companies like Harman (now part of Samsung (SSNLF) ), Nvidia (NVDA - Get Report) , Continental AG and a whole host of others.
However, Chen explained a different evolution to the company's automotive business, one that centered on software and security instead. During Chen's presentation, the company introduced Jarvis, which is aimed at finding vulnerabilities in self-driving and connected vehicles.
While not discussed as often as disengagement reports or how far a car can drive on its own, cyber security among vehicles is most certainly a concern for automakers. That gives Jarvis a perfect landing spot. While the days have come and gone where BlackBerry smartphones were the cream of the crop -- mostly thanks to Apple (AAPL - Get Report) -- few would argue that BlackBerry did a poor job at security.
Jarvis is aimed at the automotive market, but its capabilities can be aimed at the Internet of Things market too, an industry that Chen says adds 10 million new devices to each day.
On Dec. 20, the company reported its fiscal-third quarter earnings results, beating top- and bottom-line expectations. Chen had this to say on the call (bold emphasis added):
"I'll start with Blackberry Technology Solutions, which includes embedded software and assets tracking. BTS revenue grew 23% year-over-year. Growth in BTS continued to be driven primarily by BlackBerry QNX, where software development license, services and royalty revenue have all grown double-digit percentage year-over-year. The increase in revenue has been broad-based across various different applications in both the automotive as well as the general embedded market."
In the company's press release, management attributed this growth being driven by its automotive vertical.
One would believe that BlackBerry's outlook -- which for the full year calls for positive adjusted earnings, positive free cash flow and 8% to 10% software and services revenue growth -- is being helped by this quickly growing segment. It also paints a brighter picture for BlackBerry's future, although it will take time to play out.
The bottom line? BlackBerry's shift to automotive software and security as well as its infotainment division have given the company new meaning, even though the pivot from smartphones took a painfully long time. As vehicles continue to load up on technology, BlackBerry will have its name called more and more often.
At the auto show, Chen said, "BlackBerry software powers 60% of connected cars on the road today and has the No. 1 market share in telematics and infotainment." Those vehicles range from Ford (F - Get Report) , General Motors (GM - Get Report) , Jaguar, Volkswagen (VLKAY) , Mercedes-Benz and more.
As that market grows, so too should BlackBerry's exposure.