BlackBerry talks tablets, Q10, and steady plans for regaining the number one spot
Rick Costanzo, VP of global sales at BlackBerry sat down with Pocket-lint to talk the future of BlackBerry, how the Q10 launch in the UK went, why one customer bought 400 BlackBerry Q10 devices in one go from Selfridges, and what Thorsten Heins, the company's CEO, meant by his comment that we wouldn't be using tablet devices like the iPad or PlayBook in 5 years time.
On how it is going right now
It is incredibly busy. We've just had the Q10 launch last week and we couldn't have been happier on how it went actually. It was a great start.
My thing is, I don't hang my hat on one single product or any one single product launch. What we spent two years actually doing was building BlackBerry 10 as a platform and the Z10 was the first physical manifestation of it and we are really pleased how that went. We launched in February and in one month we sold over one million devices and we are really pleased. March, April, May we are globally launching the Z10 and that scales up.
The Q10 launch was last weekend, we said we were going to launch six products by the end of the year so we have a pretty steady sequence and a pretty steady cadence. One step forward, after the other, after the other.
Q10. Very pleased. It's less than a week for it being out there, but what we've seen from the initial reaction, we are very pleased.
On those six devices promised for 2013
Top is irrelevant. You can go and take it in a number of directions. We've very clearly said that we are building BlackBerry 10 for different segments with different accessibility points. You will see some interesting surprises from us. I wouldn't draw the parallel with anybody, but with BlackBerry 10, we are still seeing the first two steps in that journey. They are two great steps for us and we are just going to take one step after another, after another. Everything we've shown to our partners, they've been pretty pleased with.
On future BlackBerry devices
I think we are addressing a lot of segments with those devices at the moment. What I am saying, is that they would be additive statements rather than substitutional.
Let me put it another way: what percentage of the touch market do you think we had before we launched the Z? Zero. So I look at the figures and I am pretty pleased with what we have achieved so far. It's one step forward. Now look at the 79 million customers we have around the world and how many of them are waiting for BlackBerry device with a physical keyboard? Quite a few, and because it is not all about upgrades, how many people used to be with us and gone over to other platforms and now say they really want to go back to a BlackBerry? In the UK 40 per cent of the Z10 sales were coming in from iOS and Android.
On the Q10 launch in the UK
We launched the Q10 deliberately at Selfridges to create an event and create some momentum and "gosh they knocked it out of the park". They did fantastically.
READ: BlackBerry Q10 review
Anecdotal stuff coming out of Selfridges was there were a bunch of people who went in and bought individual units, people were buying multiple units, but there were UK companies sending in their IT guys to buy 40 or 50. One company bought 400, which was just interesting in terms of how they actually carried them out of the store. That just shows you the pent-up demand there is for this device.
On being the only high-end Qwerty device maker
We had an internal discussion about what expectations we should set in terms of what the objectives were for the Q10. The guys were saying that we could be 97 per cent of the Qwerty marketplace and I said, "We are the Qwerty marketplace." I was very bullish.
On launching the Z10 first
We did it very deliberately. We wanted to establish the fact that we can do many things other than just physical keyboards. The fact that we are doing both and you'll see that continue, like we will continue doing physical and we'll continue doing all-touch. But we really needed to establish ourselves as we can do full touch and we can do it spectacularly well in a very different way to anyone else.
The benchmark was established five or six years ago and was successfully done and was copied, but it's a row of applications and when you want something you press a button, you do your thing, then you hit the home button to go back out and then another application, and again, in and out, in and out, in and out. It's cool and very successful, but we sensed a feeling of fatigue in the marketplace and that it was time to deliver a completely new user experience. Our view is that as long as we could build it powerfully and super, super, simple it would be an interesting place to go, and that's what we did.
With BlackBerry Hub you are never more than a gesture away from your messages. It's always about one step forward, and let's take another with Q10, and it's that process of building credibility and building the numbers, and getting one step forward with every product launch.
On the older devices like the Bold
They will keep going. The numbers have maintained so far. The heritage BlackBerry range is a platform that has been around for 12 years. BBOS will be around for a while.
On tablets being around in 5 years
I don't think Thorsten [Heins] was making a comment about the PlayBook, I think Thorsten was making a comment about tablets in general. I think what he was trying to express was that mobile computing doesn't have to manifest itself in one single interpretation. It's not only about tablets. I think what he was trying to say was that there can be multiple visions and different ways to deliver that experience. Rather than articulating a vision that says buy my tablet, buy my phone, buy my laptop, what if you can actually have a vision that says "this" [picks up the Z10] has the processing power of a laptop from about about a year ago and is connected to a highly secure service called BlackBerry and so it has NFC in it. What if I could combine all those elements to take it into a branch office where I don't work but it's 12 hours away around the other side of the world and authenticate myself as Rick and actually get this to power a larger screen?
On Microsoft's ecosystem
[Microsoft is] trying to sell laptops, tablets and phones. What I am trying to say is that you don't have to actually sell all those components, because the cost of ownership on all that has to be quite high. What I am saying is that if this could be [holds up the Z10 again] your processing platform and you are actually extending this out to different environments, that's a very different vision and the cost of ownership on that is very different.
Thorsten was trying to say, look, it's not all about tablets. There may be different ways to actually do this.
When we have something to say in terms of our interpretation of that we will let you know. Extend maybe one way to do it, but there is more than one way to go about delivering mobile computing. Don't fixate on the physical aspects.
On Samsung Knox
We have a very clear leadership on that and other people will make the attempt but this isn't anything new. There have been attempts to knock us out of enterprise since 1999/2000. We have managed to not only hold on, but accelerate and build and so we think we have modernised BlackBerry Enterprise 10 service. We think we are delivering a number of really cool things, it is cross platform so we will do support for iOS and Android handsets and tablets, we'll support our stuff, and the interesting thing about it, is that with our stuff it is a very simple end-to-end solution with one server.
But as Samsung Knox doesn't have a launch date yet, I would say welcome to the party, deliver a product first. Good luck.
On steady growth or waiting for that über device
It is a steady cadenced approach. It really is. We have some really cool stuff coming along that will really resonate. I believe resonance happens with a steady cadence. I really do.
There will be some surprises, I know there will be some surprises, but nothing that I want to tip my hat off to today, but I will say that what we are trying to do with the launch of BlackBerry 10 platform is something that would give us a steady cycle of innovation, and I won't tie myself into any timelines, but we have said six by the end of the year. You can take your guess as to when on that one, but we have a platform that scales. We very clearly are focused on the high-end of the marketplace, but you'll see some new stuff with BlackBerry 10 that will address new segments and new entry points that we are pretty excited about.
On the future
We've said this publicly, we are shooting for three. I think we've really established ourselves as number three in the UK marketplace, I think we really have. We have 10 per cent market share for January through March. At the end of the year we will look again and see where we are. Are we happy with three? Not a chance, you don't play a game to stand by the sidelines, but you have to take a pretty pragmatic approach and start somewhere, solidify number three, then go for number two, then go for number one.