Following its rechristening as BlackBerry (BBRY - Analyst Report), (formerly known as Research in Motion), the company added a fresh twist to proceedings by naming pop music entertainer Alicia Keys as its Global Creative Director.
Widely expected to launch a touchscreen-based device, the company did not disappoint, unveiling the Z10. It has also launched another model, a familiar physical keyboard based device named the Q10 aimed at its tribe of BlackBerry loyalists.
But the fact that it faces an uphill task emerged almost immediately following a gaffe from Keys. According to The New York Times, she was using an iPhone only three days before the launch date of the Q10 and the Z10. Clearly, BlackBerry had failed to get their new team member on board before the launch date.
The incident is symptomatic of the uphill task the company faces. According to Kantar Worldpanel, BlackBerry’s market share in the US had dropped to 1.1% in December from 1.4% in November. In Europe, BlackBerry’s share declined to 4.0% from 4.4%.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Corporation’s (MSFT - Analyst Report) Windows Phone’s average share increased to 5.4% from 4.7%. Even though Windows Phone also lost out in the US, with its market share falling to 2.7% from 2.6%, substantial marketing support and new models from AT&T Inc. (T - Analyst Report) are expected to boost market share shortly.
The new BlackBerry 10 models are expected to be launched in the US only during mid-March. In contrast, when Samsung’s Galaxy S III was announced on June 4, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel Corp. (S - Analyst Report) said they were releasing the model on June 21.
Similarly, when the iPhone 5 from Apple Inc. (AAPL - Analyst Report) was unveiled on September 12, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ - Analyst Report) said they would be shipping phones from September 21. Windows Phone 8 was a step ahead; launch dates were being announced even before the formal launch on October 29.
As of date, U.S. carriers are only collecting email addresses for the BlackBerry 10 phones; they are still not taking presales orders. Possibly, there is a silver lining to this. The company can iron out glitches and enlarge its applications catalog before its US launch.
Meanwhile, AT&T seems to be the most supportive among carriers. However, it has yet to announce a firm launch date, though the company’s site allows you to sign up to be notified when the Z10 will be available. All of this could potentially result in lost sales for a company which is yet to recover from the losses incurred due to delays in launching the BlackBerry 10.
Even so, BlackBerry 10 is the company’s best chance to recover lost glory. Initial reviews have widely praised the Z10’s touch interface and other features such as the TimeShift camera, better multitasking and video chat features which allow users to share complex data on the go. And even as we speak its application base continues to grow.
Coming back to the Alicia Keys incident, the report by The Times also states that her Twitter account had photographs taken using Instagram, an app which is still unavailable on BlackBerry. BlackBerry’s biggest challenge is possibly to develop an ecosystem that can take on its powerful adversaries.
While BlackBerry races to enlarge its applications base for its two new models, Apple has 10 times as many apps and Google (GOOG) has a large choice of devices at various price points. Microsoft integrates with platforms like Xbox, Office and Exchange. Clearly, the company needs to provide consumer with better reasons to switch to BlackBerry 10.