BlackBerry boss says company needs more time after ‘less-than-perfect’ Z10 launch


BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins faced shareholders at the mobile maker’s annual meeting in Waterloo, Ontario, on Tuesday, an event that witnessed some straight talking from attendees as the company struggles to revive its once popular brand.

Seeking to reassure nervous investors over the future of the company, Heins said more time was required to turn things around, adding that the BlackBerry team was “driving night and day to deliver improvements.”

One investor evidently didn’t hold back with his opinion on the US launch of the Z10 – one of the new BB10 handsets that’s supposed to save the company from collapse – telling the BlackBerry boss, “My sense is that the rollout of the Z10 was a disaster.”

Heins responded, “Were we perfect at the launch? Probably not. Was it a disaster? I don’t think so.”

Seeking to explain the less-than-perfect rollout, Heins claimed sales of the handset had been hindered by the “opportunistic thinking” of US carriers, which had promoted popular handsets by rival makers over its own offering.

In response to an investor who asked Heins about the prospect of the company breaking up or being sold off, the CEO said that before a company can go into any strategic options, it must first “create value”, adding that nevertheless he was “100 percent open to partnerships and alliances”.

The meeting followed the recent release of weaker than expected sales figures for the first complete quarter in which BB10 devices have been available. Though the company reportedly shipped 2.7 million of the new BB10 handsets during the three-month period from March to May this year, this fell short of analysts’ expectations by around a million.

More bad news came last week in the form of research figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech that suggested BlackBerry’s share of the US smartphone market had dropped from 4.7 percent in 2012 to a mere 0.7 percent this year.

In Europe, too, the news was just as worrying, with the company’s share in the UK falling from 12.6 percent to 5.3 percent, and in Europe as a whole from 7 percent to 2.5 percent.

The company formerly known as RIM once dominated the smartphone market, but fell out of favor with consumers impressed by more cutting-edge devices such as Apple’s iPhone and high-end Android handsets such as Samsung’s range of Galaxy phones. Emerging markets, where BlackBerry remains relatively popular, could be key to the business getting back on its feet. The company is about to roll out the Q5 aimed primarily at such markets, though the phone may see itself up against a budget handset from Apple before long. Competition from Android devices will also be strong.

[Source: WSJ, NYT]