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BlackBerry names Cisco veteran as global head of sales

[TORONTO] BlackBerry Ltd named Carl Wiese as head of global sales on Monday, an appointment that comes at a critical juncture for the former smartphone leader, which needs to spur top-line growth for its turnaround efforts to succeed.

Mr Wiese has spent the past 12 years at Cisco Systems Inc , initially heading advanced technology sales and later Cisco's collaboration-product sales efforts. At BlackBerry, he replaces John Sims as global head of sales. BlackBerry did not provide any reasons for the departure of Mr Sims, who was at the company for about 18 months.

The move comes less than three weeks after BlackBerry posted weaker-than-expected sales growth from its software business in the first quarter, ended May 30.

BlackBerry Chief Executive Officer John Chen has built his turnaround plan around a software growth strategy, hoping sales from device-management software and fledgling areas like the so-called Internet of Things can replace BlackBerry's traditional service fee structure and falling revenue from smartphone sales.

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Mr Chen has set a software revenue target of US$500 million for the current fiscal year.

Although software revenue more than doubled year-over-year to some US$137 million in the latest quarter, much of the growth came from two patent cross-licensing deals. This spooked many analysts, who were disappointed by the weaker-than-expected core software growth. BlackBerry shares tumbled to a 13-month low on the Nasdaq last week.

BlackBerry shares were up 1.7 per cent at US$7.82 on Monday morning.

The company has also backed away from a separate US$100 million target for revenue from its BlackBerry Messenger service, leading to further concern about its ability to increase sales.

Some analysts have long been skeptical about the viability of BlackBerry's software revenue targets. When Mr Chen went over the sales targets at an analysts' event in San Francisco last November and received pushback from some analysts, he smiled and stated that if targets are not met he'd still be around next year, though some of his team might not.

The company declined to comment on whether Mr Sims' departure was tied to weaker-than-expected software revenue growth.

Mr Chen indicated last month that he remains comfortable with the US$500 million revenue target, and noted that some of that growth is set to come from acquisitions.

The company is also widely expected to debut a new Android-based smartphone before the end of the year to try to boost its hardware sales.