New BlackBerry Phones Don't Wow Investors, But Analysts See Promise
RIM's share price dropped more than 6% Wednesday, after the company announced it was changing its to BlackBerry and unveiled two new smartphones, the touchscreen Z10 and the qwerty Q10.
Wed, January 30, 2013
Slideshow: The New BlackBerry 10 Smartphones
While investors appeared disappointed by the news, several analysts attending the announcement here said the new offerings -- and the new name -- give struggling BlackBerry a reasonable chance of turning its business around.
Shares were trading at $14.84 at 1 p.m. ET, down 81 cents from Wednesday's opening.
The declining subscriber base for BlackBerry now stands at 79 million, with enterprise customers making up barely 25% of that -- a marked reversal from three years ago.
The two new smartphones -- the first to be unveiled by the Canadian company in 18 months -- appear to bridge the two major smartphone audiences: Consumers and workers, analysts agreed.
In fact, workers are buying personal smartphones in record numbers to use at work, which is blurring the divide between consumers and workers.
"More smartphones for work are purchased by individuals, not IT," said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at IDC.
The photo and video capabilities in the "Z10 and Q10 will appeal to consumers," while the split-persona capability of the BlackBerry Balance technology, which creates two secure spaces to separate corporate from personal data, included in the phones is a key appeal to IT managers and workplaces.
O'Donnell went so far to say that chinks in the armor of Apple's iPhone's may give the Z10 an slight opening.
"Is iPhone still cool? There's some iOS fatigue and for some, iOS is feeling old," he said. "That leaves an opening for BlackBerry, although it might be a small opening."
O'Donnell and Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said that U.S. buyers will likely be disappointed that the Z10 won't be available until mid-March on the four major carriers.
The Q10 will be available in April, according to Thorsten Heins, the CEO of BlackBerry, though carrier Sprint said Wednesday only that it would carry the Q10 in the coming months.
Heins also told today's gathering here that Research in Motion has been renamed BlackBerry, as the latter is a well-known global brand.
O'Donnell and Gold said BlackBerry, which currently holds less than 5% of the global smartphone market, faces an uphill challenge in marketing and selling both devices.
"Is this strong enough to drive them forward? It depends on marketing," O'Donnell said. "Are they big enough salmon to jump back to the spawning ground?"