BlackBerry Q10 Smartphone Doing Boffo Business in England
Executives at BlackBerry are undoubtedly in a good mood, following reports of sellouts for the company's new Q10 handset during its first weekend on sale in England. One retailer, Selfridges, said it was selling thousands per hour.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Selfridges is selling dozens of units at once to corporate IT buyers, indicating that the device is catching on with businesses. In fact, Selfridges said in a statement, the Q10 is its fastest-selling consumer electronics product ever for its London, Birmingham and Manchester stores. It said that the initial inventory of the Q10 "sold out in stores within two hours," and added that new stock is "being continually delivered on the hour, every hour to keep up with demand."
Selfridges, a department store, and Carphone Warehouse outlets are currently the only retailers for the device in the U.K. Carphone Warehouse has also reported sellouts.
Building on Installed Base
At least one analyst has suggested that 2,000 units of the Q10 were sold in the first 90 minutes of availability. BlackBerry has not yet indicated the total sale numbers. However, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins told Bloomberg News on Monday that he expects sales of the Q10 to reach the "tens of millions." He added that the Q10 is building on "the installed base of more than 70 million BlackBerry users."
The Q10 is the new BlackBerry 10 unit with a physical keyboard, as opposed to the all-touchscreen Z10, which launched in the U.K. in January. Interestingly, most of the promotional and advertising effort has been behind the Z10, since it represented a new direction more in line with the all-touchscreen iPhone and Android models. The Z10 sold about a million units in the quarter ending March 2.
There had been some reports of high rates of return for the Z10, but Heins has said those reports were false, and the rates are "better than previous BlackBerry launches." In mid-April, BlackBerry said it would ask securities regulators to investigate a report of high returns from one investment research firm, because, the company said, it may have been an attempt to manipulate its stock prices.
Leader in Five Years?
This wave of interest in the Q10, assuming it holds and spreads, could indicate that there is still a large demand for the physical keyboards that have characterized BlackBerry phones in the past.
At least one investment analyst firm, Wedge Partners, has speculated that BlackBerry is in the process of cutting back on Z10 production. Other analysts have disputed that sentiment, and have noted that Z10 sales are steady in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said the Q10 sales indicate "people still like their physical keyboards, and BlackBerry still has life in it." She noted that, while physical keyboard users "can always adapt," many were accustomed to using actual keys and, besides, physical keys are easier to use for many owners.
DiDio also pointed out that some reviews of the Q10 have cited the quality of the keyboard and the model's long life.
Meanwhile, Heins has been making some additional news because of two predictions. He told news media that he sees BlackBerry "as the absolute leader in computing" within five years, a more-than-bold speculation given its position way behind the market leaders, Apple's iPhone and devices based on Google's Android. The other prediction: no more tablets on the market within five years, apparently because smartphones will do all you'll need.
He conceded that users might want to have a big screen in their workplace. At the very least, this suggests BlackBerry is not going to attempt reviving or replacing its poorly received PlayBook tablet.