BlackBerry’s bumpy road back

BlackBerry has an uphill struggle to regain lost market share

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BlackBerry’s bumpy road back The BB10 launch is just the beginning; BlackBerry now needs to wrest control of the market from Apple and Google.
By  Stephen McBride Published  January 31, 2013

The global smartphone market hit an extraordinary growth spurt in 2012, according to the International Data Corporation's (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report for the fourth quarter of 2012. Shipment volume was 36.4% greater than in Q4 2011 and new players entered the top-five market-leader table.

Unfortunately, Canadian BlackBerry maker Research In Motion was not one of them. The company was beset by a number of problems last year, including service outages in the UAE and other parts of Asia and a delayed launch of its Blackberry 10 platform. But while many analysts - citing these mishaps and a lack of developer interest - consigned the BlackBerry handset to history, RIM's story may be far from over.

At last night's launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform at the Armani Hotel, Dubai, RIM - now to be called "BlackBerry" after its products - presented two new handsets: the touch-interface Z10 and the Q10, which incorporates a touch screen and the QWERTY keyboard that charmed BlackBerry's 80 million subscribers.

The Z10 in particular is clearly intended to be a consumer curio, with its large media-friendly screen. This appears to be slightly at odds with commentators such as Ovum's chief telecoms analyst, Jan Dawson, who believed that the new platform would seek to keep the subscribers BlackBerry already had, rather than trying to prise consumers from the grasp of Android or iOS. Dawson argued that since company revenues were increasingly split in favour of the corporate segment, that the manufacturer would not waste effort trying to win back the consumer market.

However, even Dawson conceded that BlackBerry enthusiasts have been treading water in anticipation of a delayed platform, and shrunken revenues are likely to recover for at least the first two quarters of 2013, as those loyalists finally snap up the latest devices.

Following last night's launch the analysts' buzz appeared to be cautious optimism, with Peter Misek of Jefferies & Co saying the new handsets put BlackBerry "back in the game" and Carl Howe, vice president of Yankee Group commenting that the Z10 device "stacks up well against iPhone and Android devices".

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