BlackBerry posts profit after rebranding, Z10 launch

BlackBerry, the new name of the Canadian phone manufacturer Research in Motion, surprised analysts and investors Thursday by announcing that it turned a profit last quarter. From the Associated Press:

The earnings provide a first glimpse of how RIM’s new touch-screen BlackBerry Z10 is selling internationally and in Canada since its debut Jan. 31. The 1 million Z10 phones were above the 915,000 that analysts had been expecting. . .

In the quarter that ended March 2, RIM earned $98 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with a loss of $125 million, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier.

The latest figures are good news for BlackBerry, but the company, which has been struggling to sell its phones for years, still has problems says the Post:

BlackBerry’s report shows that the company is continuing to lose subscribers and saw its subscriber base shrink by 3 million since the company’s last earnings report in December. . .

BlackBerry is hoping that their newest smartphone can help them reclaim the moble phone market. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama talks about the features of the Z10 and also about lawmakers on Capitol Hill interested in letting consumers “unlock” their mobile phones. (The Washington Post)

While BlackBerry may be pleased with its launch figures, analysts say they have their doubts on how sustainable those sales may be, and whether the company can truly gain market share from Apple’s iPhone and smartphones running Google’s Android mobile operating system.

Just a week ago, the company released the Z10 in the United States. BlackBerry has modest objectives for its newest product. Chief executive officer Thorsten Heins told the Post, “The expectation is to gain market share. We’re not content with where we are today.” Haley Tsukayama writes that the phone has a bold, ambitious design:

The company’s efforts to distinguish itself from competitors like Apple and Samsung are admirable, but could fall flat with some users. For example, the phone has no home button and no physical keyboard — design decisions meant to signal that the company’s ready to play with the big boys in the smartphone market.

The company’s goal, for now, is simply to become the world’s third-largest phone manufacturer, behind Samsung and Apple:

In pursuit of the bronze medal, BlackBerry is shaping a new image that harkens back to its reputation for strong security and productivity features, while also trying to draw attention to new consumer features that will convince buyers to use the phones for work and play. (Read the rest of this short profile of Frank Boulben, the company’s new chief marketing officer, here.)

Heins has publicly criticized the iPhone, saying it relies on an obsolete design that is difficult to use:

Heins, with deference to Apple’s legacy as a “design icon,” said the way the iPhone’s menus are laid out aren’t designed to make it easy for users to run multiple programs at once in the way that modern smartphone power users need.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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