BlackBerry beats expectations

... but investors will have to wait a little longer for answers

Eric Risberg/AP

BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion Ltd.) continues to prove its harshest critics wrong. The company today posted a return to profitability in the fourth quarter, announced the retirement of co-founder and board vice chair Mike Lazaridis and revealed that the company sold about a million devices running its new BB10 platform during the three-month period. The device sales were in-line with Wall Street’s expectations and were considerably more than the 300,000 or so predicted by some of the more bearish analysts following the stock.

It’s the first piece of solid data about the company’s efforts to make the transition from its legacy OS to a new platform. Though still too early to call BB10 a success, CEO Thorsten Heins said during a conference call that more than 50 per cent of people who have bought a BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen were non-BlackBerry customers, which bodes well for the company’s early efforts to win back market share from industry leaders Apple and Google. A version of the device featuring a physical keyboard is expected to launch soon.

Key to BlackBerry’s comeback will be making an impact in the huge U.S. market. While some analysts have expressed concerns about the Z10’s mid-March U.S. launch, Heins suggested it was far too early to pass judgment (the figures reported today only include sales up until March 2). He also cautioned against making assumptions about Z10 sales based on spot checks with retailers. “Guessing the store line-ups has become a bit of a spectator sport in our industry,” Heins said. “I would like to emphasize that BlackBerry 10 has a phased roll out.” In other words, investors will have to wait another three months for more answers.

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