A View from David Zax
BlackBerry on the Rebound
A well-thrown Hail Mary. Will it be caught?
After years of decline, it has been a week of excitement for BlackBerry, formerly Research in Motion, the makers of the iconic and now eponymous phone. The Associate Press reports a rise in the company’s shares, which had hit a nine-year-low in September. The analyst Maynard Um upgraded the shares to outperform. It was trading around $16.62 this afternoon.
The reason, of course, is widespread optimism following the successful launch of the Z10 smartphone on Tuesday. In Canada, RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins called it the “best day ever” for the launch of a new BlackBerry smartphone. Some Canadian stores sold out of the device, and demand was strong in the UK as well: “close to three times our best performance ever for the first week of sales for a BlackBerry smartphone” across the pond, said Heins. (The phone comes to the US in March.)
Crucially, the new device has received mostly favorable reviews. BusinessInsider calls it “great,” emphasizing that the BB10 OS is “cleverly designed…so everything can be controlled with gestures.” Reviewer Steve Kovach says the Z10’s virtual keyboard is the best he’s ever used. Joshua Topolsky of the Verge likewise calls the Z10 “the serious contender BlackBerry has been claiming it would be, packing in the specs, software prowess, and services to take on even the most entrenched players in the game.” He singles out a few nice touches; for instance, the camera app includes a mode called TimeShift, wherein you can take a picture and then also compare it to frames a few moments after.
With praise like this, it’s no wonder BlackBerry’s riding high this week. The Z10 is a Hail Mary pass, and a seemingly well-aimed one. And speaking of Hail Marys, BlackBerry even shelled out for a kinetic Super Bowl ad on Sunday. In case you missed it:
That’s not to say that all news coming out of BlackBerry this week has necessarily been encouraging. The company will be withdrawing from the Japanese market, at least for now, deeming it non-critical. Japan, of course, is a major market, and is generally important in the world of electronics, but BlackBerry never fared well there, and its decision to double down its investments where it’s faring better and has a more loyal base is probably a wise one.