Mar 22 - The BlackBerry z10 hits store shelves in the United Stated in a limited rollout for AT&T Wireless customers. Will early sales suggest a stud or a dud? Fred Katayama takes a look.
BlackBerry finally launched its make-or-break smartphone in its do-or-die market, the United States. The Z-10 badly needs to woo new customers in BlackBerry's largest market. Kevin Burden is director of mobility at Strategy Analytics. SOUNDBITE: KEVIN BURDEN, DIRECTOR OF MOBILITY, STRATEGY ANALYTICS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "You can't underscore the significance of how important the U.S. market is to BlackBerry. It holds about 20 percent of the overall BlackBerry subscriber population. When it comes to BlackBerry devices, no other market has adopted BlackBerries with the same ferocity as the U.S. market." BlackBerry has a lot of catching up to do. Its platform, which once dominated the U.S. smartphone market, now has less than 6 percent share, according to comScore. Google's Android and Apple's iOS control more than 90 percent. Unlike the latest iPhone which launched in several major countries at once, the Z10's rollout is staggered. It comes more than a month after its initial launch overseas. And it's staggered domestically, with AT&T and BestBuy putting it on sale Friday and Verizon and T-Mobile next week. REPORTER BRIDGE: FRED KATAYAMA, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Judging by traffic at this AT&T store in New York's Times Square just blocks from where BlackBerry held its kick-off bash Thursday night, the Z10's circuits weren't sizzling. There were no lines or signs. Only a handful of consumers asked for it at the store's open." Strategy Analytics estimates BlackBerry will sell 300-thousand units on its first weekend. Based on his sales checks today, Burden says BlackBerry is on track to meeting his estimate. SOUNDBITE: KEVIN BURDEN, DIRECTOR OF MOBILITY, STRATEGY ANALYTICS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It certainly appears when we look at the pre-orders, it appears as though BlackBerry will have a successful first weekend. There's enough good reviews around its hardware, around its platform and certainly a lot of pent-up demand from the BlackBerry faithful that should make this first weekend very good." And its users may be pent-up for apps. BlackBerry: widely trails Apple and Android with 100-thousand-plus versus more than 700-thousand each for Apple and Google. BlackBerry is winning back some investors. It's up 26 percent this year. But it's still down nearly 90 percent from its all-time peak in 2008 The company did not release a sales goal for the phone. Wall Street expects BlackBerry will ship 1-and-a-half million 10s this year. We may get the first read on its sales performance when BlackBerry reports its quarterly earnings on March 28.