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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

John Chen may be the CEO of BlackBerry, but even he has to sometimes remind people the company is still in business.

Why it matters: BlackBerry no longer manufactures phones, but it makes more than $1 billion in revenue per year selling things like security software, an operating system widely used in cars and patent licenses.

Quick recap: BlackBerry bought embedded operating system QNX in 2010, exited the smartphone business in 2016 and started letting Chinese phone maker TCL sell BlackBerry-branded phones. Since then, it has been a software-only company.

By the numbers:

  • BlackBerry gets about $600 million from its so-called platform business, which includes the company's security and enterprise device management software efforts.
  • The app side of things, which includes QNX, generates around $400 million per year.
  • Licensing its portfolio of more than 38,000 patent families earns BlackBerry around $200 million–$250 million per year.

In an interview at CES last week, Chen talked about the company, its remaining businesses and why he thinks BlackBerry needs to be more aggressive.

  • The company is generating positive cash flow and eking out a small profit, but the naturally impatient Chen wants it to do better.
  • "We really do need to execute," Chen told Axios. "We could definitely do better."

Between the lines: Getting a bigger place in the car is a key priority for BlackBerry. The company's QNX operating system has been used primarily for in-car infotainment systems, but that is rapidly declining in value and now amounts to only $2–$5 per car.

But software for cars overall is a growth business as cars move toward autonomy and add features like automatic braking, parking and lane detection. Those types of systems can produced in the $10–$20 in software revenue per car.

"A car is going to end up with 100 million lines of code," Chen said. "It's amazing. That's much bigger than the lines of code in an F-14 fighter."

Yes, but: Getting automakers to adopt new technology is tough work and often takes years, Chen said.

Go deeper: BlackBerry drives into connected car market

Go deeper

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Axios Re:Cap digs in with former FDA commissioner Rob Calif about the EUA process, the science and who should make the final call.

The recovery needs rocket fuel

Data: BLS. Chart: Axios Visuals

Friday's deeply disappointing jobs report should light a fire under Congress, which has dithered despite signs the economy is struggling to kick back into gear.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden said Friday afternoon in Wilmington that he supports another round of $1,200 checks.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

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