If speculation was all BlackBerry needed to drive market share, there would be a different conversation going on today after this weekend’s U.S. debut of the Z10 at AT&T stores.
There was much talk leading up to the January 30
unveiling of the latest platform and devices, and further conjecture followed in the wait to have the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone in hand.
And now, a few days after the device hit U.S stores, there is continued speculation about how many Z10s were actually sold and what the company’s Q4 financials will be when they are reported on March 28.
BlackBerry stocks closed down both on Friday, March 22 and Monday, March 25. Financial analysts, at the same time, downgraded BlackBerry due to poor sales and recommended a buy, noting that the company still has 30 million customers and will make money on services.
Online, presales of the device went live with all the carriers during the week of March 11, and the in-store purchasing continues this week with T-Mobile on March 27, and Verizon on March 28.
Still, no crowd swarms were reported, and according to data from CNBC some stores reported only selling ten Z10s per day. Though there is no way to calculate online sales, a keyword assessment on Google showed that “BlackBerry Z10” was searched for less than 100,000 times globally in the last month.
In a call to its nearly 2.3 million followers, BlackBerry tweeted
: “Hey #USA! RT if u purchased a #BlackBerry10 device this weekend. Haven’t picked urs up yet? Here’s where to buy: http://blck.by/10Fzhtb
.” Retweet count was in the 60s midday Monday, March 25 and grew to 1,600+ overnight.
Early on, the Z10 was praised by the industry and end users alike, but oddly, now that the device is on hand, BlackBerry buzz, at least in the consumer market on which BlackBerry is depending for BYOD, seems to be fading. The company itself was quiet, with no issuance of an official statement on the weekend sales and no comment upon request.
On the outset, BlackBerry never offered a projection on U.S. device sales, but did speak post launch in February, after the Z10 went on the market in other countries. At that time CEO Thorsten Heins said, “In Canada, yesterday [Feb. 5] was the best day ever for the first day of a launch of a new BlackBerry smartphone. In fact, it was more than 50% better than any other launch day in our history in Canada. In the U.K., we have seen close to three times our best performance ever for the first week of sales for a BlackBerry smartphone.”
Apple and Samsung
By contrast, iPhone 5 sold five million units the first weekend
, a fact that was touted
by Apple. Today, Google shows global monthly searches for this device to still be near 40 million.
As if anticipating the comparison, on March 22, the night before the Z10 AT&T store launch, Heins told the Associated Press that iPhone’s user interface is outdated, citing the innovation of the single gesture of the Z10’s Hub as the new way to multitask.
Contributing also to the noise above BlackBerry buzz, Samsung released the Galaxy S 4
at a big event in New York City, the same week that Z10 online sales went live. BlackBerry is certainly making a play for BYOD
with the BlackBerry 10 platform, but Samsung’s Galaxy S 3 already accounts for millions of BYOD smartphones in the enterprise.
In a notable, if not ironic, but overlooked “win” for BlackBerry, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told the U.K.’s Guardian recently, that he uses a BlackBerry because he likes the keyboard. Couldn’t this unspoken endorsement from someone who is a part of Android’s largest stakeholder help make BlackBerry’s case?
Heins’ Mobile Future
It may just be that Heins isn’t really trying to make a case at all, at least not one in the context of his competitors. In a video interview with ABC News, he noted the “fierce competition” in the U.S. market, but said it’s not always about the ranking you hold – No. 3, or No. 4, etc. “In a mature market, being everyone’s darling just doesn’t work. So Apple has its position. Samsung has its position, and I am rebuilding the BlackBerry position,” he said.
He again talked about the user experience on the BlackBerry Z10 as being unique and new and “more attractive to the user.” He also said. “We are already working on what is next.”
That includes an extended portfolio of BlackBerry 10 devices, but more so, the unifying of the work experience to one device. The Z10, according to Heins, has the power of a laptop, and this plays into a vision he described at the January 30 launch.
While BlackBerry 10 is indeed a platform, an OS and a device(s), he spoke of it as a move from “mobile communications” to “true mobile computing."
He believes that mobile experiences will connect the user to the "whole world" and that each person will be in the middle of their "personal internet of things." "We will be a leader in connecting you to your internet of things," he said.
But before that, and to conclude with more speculation, perhaps the world awaits the next BlackBerry device that we already know abou t— the Q10 — with its QWERTY keyboard. Enterprise security aside, this is what made BlackBerry an icon. Maybe its future will come from its past.