John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

BlackBerry’s Million-Smartphone Mystery Partner: Brightstar

TopSecretWho bought one million BlackBerry 10 devices?

We posed that question here earlier this month, following the announcement of the largest single handset purchase in BlackBerry’s history. And we answered it with a simple theory: An order so massive for new handsets running an unproven platform would never have been placed by a carrier. Only a big electronics distributor would take such a risk. One like Brightpoint, which has a long-standing relationship with BlackBerry, distributing its handsets throughout the world — particularly in emerging markets like Malaysia.

Turns out that theory was accurate. The order was placed by a wireless distributor, but not by Brightpoint. Research house Detwiler Fenton reports that the mysterious “established partner” responsible for the order was Brightpoint rival Brightstar. And sources familiar with the deal have confirmed this to AllThingsD, as well. “You’ve got the ‘Bright’ part right,” one source quipped. “But you’re a point off.”

“A couple of years ago, Nokia, RIM and Samsung made up over 80 percent of Brightstar revenues, with RIM potentially comprising nearly half of that, I believe,” Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair told AllThingsD. “So [this is] no surprise.”

Sources declined to provide any detail on the BlackBerry-Brightstar deal, but Detwiler Fenton has an interesting theory about the rationale behind it. Brightstar handles most of Verizon’s big-box retail distribution, and this one-million-handset order could be part of the carrier’s plan to offload some BlackBerry inventory risk on third-party distributors.

“Our checks indicate the order was from Brightstar, whom Verizon is relying upon to handle the big-box retail and dealer agent channels,” Detwiler Fenton managing director Mark Gerber told AllThingsD. “It suggests Verizon doesn’t believe this will be a strong seller, since it normally tries to allocate hot product on its own.”

Given the reportedly underwhelming debut of the BlackBerry Z10 at AT&T and Best Buy this past weekend, pushing some risk off on Brightstar may have been a prudent strategy.

BlackBerry is set to report earnings before the market opens on Thursday, the same day that the Z10 debuts on Verizon.

BlackBerry and Brightstar both declined comment. Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.

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