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Do you remember the Z10? If you live in the U.S., it's understandable if you don't. Reminder: it's the smartphone that BlackBerry unveiled outside the US in January, and upon which it has staked its very survival. Despite positive reviews for the device, the tardy U.S. release seemed like a typical BlackBerry (née Research In Motion) flub. It is March, and the Z10 has finally landed stateside. But despite the delay, surprisingly, it looks like the Z10 could find a welcome reception.
The smartphone maker has said sales in the U.K., Canada and India have been brisk. Crucially, half of Canadian buyers and a third of U.K. buyers are new to BlackBerry. The company's vital strength had been its legacy position in corporate email service. But corporate clients have fallen from more than 70 per cent of customers to less than 30 per cent during the past five years, and enterprises are increasingly willing to support various smartphones. BlackBerry must now gain customers on its products' merits, rather than relying on corporate incumbency.
BlackBerry shares traded up to $17 per share in January pre-Z10 after the company said it was reviewing strategic alternatives, including selling its hardware business and licensing its software. But since the Z10 announcement, the stock had fallen almost a fifth before rallying this week on news of Lenovo's possible interest in a BlackBerry acquisition. Almost half of Wall Street analysts have a "sell" rating on the stock. This week also brings Samsung's debut of its latest iPhone killer, which has shifted the spotlight from the Z10, underscoring BlackBerry's status as a has-been.
Yet last year BlackBerry shares had fallen as low as $6 and there was talk of just harvesting the company for its patents. That a BlackBerry smartphone could even merit a mention with Samsung this week counts as progress.