BlackBerry chief punts on faithful

Hopes are 400,00 government users will buy the new model but an analyst is not so sure

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 5:02am

Research In Motion chief executive officer Thorsten Heins expects his million-plus government customers in North America to embrace the BlackBerry 10 devices the company is counting on for survival.

About 400,000 government customers worldwide got new BlackBerry phones last year, and Heins, said he sees at least that many splurging on the new BB10 models next year.

RIM, based in Ontario, said this week that it will begin selling the products in February on multiple continents.

"I would be surprised if we don't see quite a wave moving over to BlackBerry 10," Heins said yesterday.

The BlackBerry 10 is the linchpin of RIM's comeback fight, following years of market-share losses to Apple's iPhone and devices running Google's Android operating system. The company's shares have plunged more than 90 per cent from their peak in 2008, underscoring investors' concerns that the BlackBerry can regain customers and beat back challengers such as Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.

One analyst has said the new device may be dead on arrival.

"We believe BB10 is likely to be DOA," James Faucette, a Pacific Crest Securities analyst in Portland, Oregon, said last week.

"We expect the new OS to be met with a lukewarm response at best and ultimately likely to fail,"

Some of RIM's earliest and most loyal customers have been US government agencies, which have used BlackBerrys for more than a decade.

Faced with a growing number of federal offices that have embraced a bring-your-own device policy as a way of saving money, Heins said he's determined to keep their business.

RIM may need to sell more than 400,000 new phones in the government market if it wants to make an impact, said Sameet Kanade, an analyst in Toronto.