BlackBerry Live 2013: After Promises, Progress
For BlackBerry, this past year has been a very different beast from the one that preceded it. This time last year, on the eve of the company’s BlackBerry Live conference (formerly BlackBerry World), the company was making headlines for its dismal financial results, its ongoing search for an adviser to help evaluate its strategic options and its perennially coming-real-soon-now next-generation operating system, BlackBerry 10.
Today, BlackBerry is in a far less precarious position. It has finally managed to ship BlackBerry 10 — along with a couple of handsets on which to run it — and all have been generally well received. The company’s touchscreen smartphone, the Z10, set launch-day sales records in Canada and the U.K.; its Qwerty sibling, the Q10, has been garnering positive reviews; takeover rumors have gone quiet; the company reported a surprise profit in its most recent quarter, and its shares are up some 25 percent since the beginning of the year. While BlackBerry hasn’t yet escaped the skepticism that mercilessly dogged it last year, it has provided investors and developers — and really anyone with an interest in the company — some reason for cautious optimism, despite the still daunting challenges ahead of it.
There’s a lot riding on BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins’s keynote address at BlackBerry Live tomorrow morning, but the company is in a far better place to deliver. So what can we expect from Heins when he takes the stage tomorrow?
- An update on BlackBerry 10 handset sales volume and momentum. Heins has previously said he expects to ship “tens of millions” of BlackBerry Q10 handsets. Is that still the goal? What are the company’s expectations for the Z10?
- Perhaps, the unveiling of BlackBerry 10.1 for the Z10, which brings a number of new features to the device, including the ability to install Skype.
- An update on developer support for BlackBerry 10, the current tally of apps in BlackBerry World, and perhaps the announcement of some new and much-needed marquee apps.
As I’ve previously reported, Netflix and Instagram have both declined to build native apps for BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry has said it is committed to bringing both of them and other top titles to its new platform. Heins’s keynote would be an excellent time to announce a few victories.
- Further insight into BlackBerry’s view of the tablet market. Heins recently made headlines for some bearish remarks about the future of tablets, saying, “In five years, I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.” If that’s the case, what is BlackBerry’s overall view of the future of mobile computing?
- An update of BlackBerry’s promised portfolio of BlackBerry 10 devices. What does the lineup look like beyond the Z10 and Q10? When will the rumored R10 ship? The company has already hit the market’s high end, presumably it plans to hit its middle and lower ends as well. What sort of device is it planning for emerging markets?
So, lots of issues to talk about, all of them speaking to a common theme. Now that Heins has seemingly succeeded in righting BlackBerry’s listing ship, where is it headed? And how is it going to get there?