BlackBerry CEO: Z10 Sales Are Shifting Tone of Strategic Review

BlackBerry Z10’s solid sales are influencing the direction of the ongoing review of the business, CEO Thorsten Heins said in a report.

The BlackBerry Z10 smartphone is selling well, and its success has changed the tone of the strategic review under way at the struggling Canadian company, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine.

The Z10, a Q10 sister device expected to launch in April, and the BlackBerry 10 mobile platform both phones run on were long delayed, giving rivals such as Apple and Samsung not just quarters but years during which they effectively chipped away at BlackBerry's once-majority market share.

Ahead of BlackBerry 10's more immediate launch, the company—which recently changed its name from Research In Motion to BlackBerry, as many people mistakenly already thought of it—brought in financial advisers to undergo a strategic review process and help the company determine its next move.

Various reports have suggested that BlackBerry could sell off its hardware business, license its software or sell the company outright—Lenovo has been named as a possibly interested party, though executives at the computer maker quickly backed away from such reports, insisting they're considering everything.

Heins has offered no details about the ongoing process, except to say that no actions would be taken until BlackBerry 10 was introduced and the world's response to it gauged.

So far, the Germany-born Heins told the German-language paper (thank you, Google Translate) in a Feb. 24 article that the response is exceeding expectations, which rather changes matters.

While the review is ongoing, the "tonality has changed" somewhat, said Heins, adding that signs are good and BlackBerry's future options "could perhaps go in a different direction."

BlackBerry released a Feb. 6 statement in which it said that first-day sales of the Z10 were "the best-ever first day" of a BlackBerry smartphone launch, but the paper pointed to analyst comments that sales in the U.K. and Canada have since been "underwhelming."

"Since I have completely different information—and you can be sure that we are [watching] the sales figures every day—[I can tell you] we have exceeded our expectations, and the requirement were ambitious," Heins said, adding that BlackBerry wants to do business and watch the market a little while longer before sharing numbers.

He also responded to reports that while the Z10 had sold out at many retailers, BlackBerry hadn't provided many units to begin with.

"We have been surprised by the positive response. We have now increased our production capacity," Heins said, though he declined to say by how much.

He was happy to share, however, details about who is buying the Z10.

"Significant for us, and unexpected," he said, "a high proportion of BlackBerry 10 devices will be purchased by new customers who previously had iPhones or Android smartphones."

The latter is a feat that analysts, conceding that at least current BlackBerry users might upgrade, didn't expect to happen to any great degree, but which will be critical to the brand's ability to regain some of its former glory, build its market share back up and beat out Microsoft's Windows Phone to be the coveted third platform that carriers have said they want to support.

Regarding that last battle, Heins called Nokia's newest Windows Phone devices "not bad," but said they lacked the distinguishing features of the Z10—namely, BlackBerry 10's Hub—and the ability to separate personal and enterprise content.

Regarding BlackBerry 10's modest app offerings—it launched with 70,000 applications, and by the time the Z10 goes on sales in the United States, around mid-March, it expects to have more than 100,000—Heins said he wasn't concerned, though BlackBerry is working to bring in more.

Heins, being patient, seemed to see the necessary pieces falling into place.

The strategic review will continue, he added, "until we get a reasonable result."