Business

BlackBerry woos Caribbean with BB10

PETE SANKEY Senior associate editor sankeyp@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, February 02, 2013    

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BLACKBERRY officials say there is already a buzz among its carrier partners in the Caribbean for its new BB10 smartphones — the Z10 and Q10 — which the Canadian company boasts has been redesigned, reinvented and reengineered.

Wes Nicol, BlackBerry's managing director for Latin America, told a small group of Caribbean journalists who were among the approximately 400 who covered the BB10 world launch at Pier 36 in Basketball City, New York, that there are high expectations in the region with the launch of the BB10, which BlackBerry will be pushing in its bid to grab back a big share of the high-end smartphone market.

"[The BB10] is the most attractive high-end phone for the Caribbean market and initial demands have been eye-popping," Nicol told the Jamaica Observer. "BB10 is going to make BlackBerry cool again," he said. He, however, expects the BB10 to be post-paid driven where customer have a contract with carriers. "It is going to be a different world," he said.

BlackBerry, Nicol told the Observer, has started with the high-end market with the launch of the touch screen Z10 and the Q10, which has a physical keyboard, but promised that over the next 12 months there will be about six more devices with lower prices as BlackBerry wants to satisfy all markets.

At the same time, Sean Killen, regional director for the Caribbean, said there has been a lot of enthusiasm from carriers in the Caribbean to the BB10, with some increasing orders as they set to start sale of BlackBerry's new flagship.

"The responses [from carriers] are that this is what the people of the Caribbean have been waiting on. We have one of the best teams and we are going to fight hard in the Caribbean to take back [the smartphone market]. We don't want to leave anything to anyone else; we are ready for the comeback," an enthusiastic Killen said.

Killen confessed, however, that BlackBerry had suffered in the high-end market in the Caribbean after it had for years been the smartphone that people aspired to own, but he was optimistic about a big 'come back' with the BB10 smartphones — the stylish touch screen Z10 and the Q10, which comes with a physical keyboard.

"If I you don't have the Z10 you don't have the coolest phone," Killen told Caribbean journalists from Barbados, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad.

"We are going to re-establish [that connection] in the Caribbean; we are going to fight hard to get back to [where we were]," Killen said.

The new BB10 phones went on sale in the United Kingdom on Thursday, a day after the official launch, and will be available in North America this month, Latin America in March and the Caribbean by early April.

However, although the new BB phones may not arrive in Jamaica until April, there is already a buzz at Digicel and LIME — the country's two mobile carries.

"We are very excited to be bringing the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone to Digicel customers across the Caribbean. The BlackBerry 10 powered solutions on Digicel offers a great mobile computing experience, which is great news for our style-savvy customers who use BlackBerry smartphones for their business and lifestyle needs. Our customers are looking for cutting-edge technologies and the latest apps wrapped up in the distinctive BlackBerry style. The new Z10 fits the bill and we are expecting a great response when it launches," said Brian Finn, group commercial director for the Digicel Group.

LIME, at the same time, said that as one of the first companies to offer BlackBerry service in the Caribbean, "we are very excited to introduce another revolution from BlackBerry to LIME customers".

"This is one of the most exciting offers smartphone users worldwide will get this year and social media everywhere is already buzzing with expectations," a LIME statement quoted Grace Silvera, regional vice-president for marketing and corporate communication.

BlackBerry President and CEO Thorston Heins, who officially launched the BB10-powered smartphones in New York, with live satellite links to London, Dubai, Toronto, Paris, and Johannesburg, announced a name change from RIM (Research in Motion) to BlackBerry.

He dedicated the new BB10 to the company's 12,000 employees in 36 countries, whom he said had worked tirelessly to build a new mobile computing platform from the ground up, and won applause when he announced that more than 70,000 apps, including Skype and Angry Birds, would be available at the BlackBerry World storefront, as well as one of the most robust music and video catalogues available in mobile history.

The enhanced and multiple features offered by the BB10 should undoubtedly help to push the BlackBerry, in what is expected to be a fight for the top-end of the smartphone market.

The BlackBery boss said the BB10 will now be the leader in mobile computing.

There had for months been speculations about BlackBerry's new flagship and whether or not it would help the Canadian company win back market share it has lost, with some sceptics predicting a do or die for BlackBerry.

CBC News' Peter Nowak, in a December 11, 2012 review of the BB10's operating system, said that "whether the new devices will be able to fight off tough competition in the consumer space from Apple and Android is an open question, but they will offer some nice productivity and work features for BlackBerry's bread-and-butter business users".

Javed Anwer of the timesofindia.com wrote on January 4 that "2013 is the year when the company's fortunes may take a turn for the better.

BlackBerry answered all those questions Wednesday and made no secret at its new BB10 will be pushing hard in a market it once dominated a few years ago.

Loaded with features that offer businesses and individuals the latest technology in the palm of the hand, the BB10 offers what are called the BlackBerry Flow, Active Frames, Intelligent Organiser, an Intelligent Keyboard, and the BlackBerry Balance.

The new experience, of course, starts with the first click. According to information provided by the telecoms company, after booting the new BlackBerry platform you will recognise the new lock screen, which gives the most recent time and date, notification of the next event (based on calendar, quick start symbol for camera waiting e-mail as well as symbols for network coverage and battery level.

"Because of data privacy and security there is intentionally not more information available on this particular screen view. In case the smartphone gets lost, the finder cannot identify personal details of the owner," BlackBerry said.

"BlackBerry's main concept in BB10 is an easy navigation with one hand only. There are no separated areas in the OS (operating system); every aspect is connected with each other. With one gesture and without home button or main menu, users can always return to the hub or an active frame from everywhere. With the flow there is no more need to jump between apps.

Active Frames, meanwhile, is BlackBerry's answer to the Android Overlay and Windows phones. It said that Instead of simple icons of open apps (iOS) there are real time quick views on BlackBerry 10, which makes it possible to open up to eight applications at the same time.

"The BlackBerry Hub is unifying any sort of notification, regardless of their source: e-mails, Facebook notifications, calendar entries, BBM messages, calls, text messages, and more," said the company.

It added that from a content perspective the notification centre for Android and iOS are not much different but RIM can move the hub smoothly aside to peek into the active frames and vice-versa. And for the Intelligent Organiser, if there is an upcoming appointment, the new calendar can make all previous information about participants available at a glance, including phone number of attendees, last conversation with them, e-mails connected with the subject.

"BlackBerry smartphones are famous for the QWERTY keyboard and this has not changed with BlackBerry 10," the company said about its Intelligent Keyboard.

"The new virtual keyboard contains a lot of new features and innovation: Word suggestions show up immediately on top of the letter potentially typed next.

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