BlackBerry faces crucial test with U.S. launch of Z10

Fri Mar 22, 2013 11:22am EDT
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TORONTO, March 22 (Reuters) - Nearly two months after its formal unveiling, BlackBerry's new Z10 smartphone goes on sale on Friday in the hyper-competitive U.S. market, a crucial proving ground for the company's ambition to re-establish itself as an industry leader.

BlackBerry , which is already selling the new touch-screen smartphone in about 25 countries, aims to make the Z10's new operating system the clear No. 3 platform on the market, a realistic but still difficult challenge, analysts say.

BlackBerry once ruled the U.S. smartphone market, but it has fallen badly in recent years as devices powered by Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems dominate sales both in North America and overseas.

The BlackBerry 10 operating system will now slug it out with Microsoft's Windows 8 platform to secure the No. 3 market position.

But by most accounts BlackBerry has a tough fight ahead. It not only has to win back the hearts and minds of consumers, but the timing is hardly ideal, with the Samsung Galaxy S4, expected to go on sale by the end of April, generating a lot of buzz.

"We believe BlackBerry's launch in the strategically important U.S. market will run into intense competition as Samsung, Apple, HTC and Nokia refresh their line-ups," Raymond James analyst Steven Li said in a note to clients on Friday.

Despite the buzz around other devices, some expect the Z10 to do well in the United States.

Best Buy's head of mobile sales, Scott Anderson, said the retailer has gauged demand for the Z10 based on sales at Best Buy stores in Canada.

"We have fairly consistently increased the allocation of it to our stores as it has got more and more buzz. Even though we aren't releasing any numbers, we do put this in the realm of a serious iconic launch," he said.   Continued...