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BlackBerry's Z10 races to strong UK start, sells out in some stores

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BlackBerry's latest Z10 smartphone is already selling out in some retail stores in the UK, according to the CEO Thorsten Heins and other executives, including European Managing Director Stephen Bates.

"It's beyond expectations," Heins said in an interview with the AP, discussing the UK launch. "White is sold out already. The black is hard to stock up again. It's very encouraging. I won't share the number because I need to verify it, but we are getting a substantial number of users moving from other platforms to BlackBerry. That is an interesting data point."

Similarly, Bates told the Financial Times that the launch of the new handset, running the company's new BlackBerry 10 software, has exceeded expectations, with a number of UK retailers selling out of stock a few days after launch.

Canada's second largest operator, Bell Mobility, said pre-orders for the Z10 had been stronger than for any earlier BlackBerry device, with the UAE reporting similar levels of demand.

Commenting on the Z10's launch prospects, London-based Sanford Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu said he was upgrading his rating on Blackberry to "outperform," believing the company is set for a strong start. "All is in place for the BlackBerry Z10 to enjoy a great debut, even if the long-term prospects for the platform are uncertain," he wrote in a note to clients.

However, Ferragu warned that even if BlackBerry achieves strong sales over the next few quarters it still faces increasing competition from Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy.

"Longer term, ecosystem dynamics play against BlackBerry and we remain sceptical," Ferragu wrote, but added that a successful launch might increase the number of options available to BlackBerry, including becoming a specialist niche smartphone vendor, adopting a new business model or being sold in parts or as a whole, according to the FT.

This viewpoint was given weight by Heins saying a week after the launch of the Z10 that he was aiming the company to reclaim its position as an innovator in a world where smartphones already have the processing power to replace tablets and laptops.

"The architecture we have built is true mobile computing architecture. It's not a downgraded PC operating system. It is a whole new innovation built from scratch. It's built for mobile," he told Reuters.

However, this optimism was dismissed by IDC analyst John Jackson saying that he could see a future for the BlackBerry 10 operating system, but added: "They need to sell devices to keep the lights on while they transform themselves into a next-generation computing platform."

"The Street cares about how many units of these [devices] they're going to sell and that is the balancing act," Jackson told Reuters.

For more:
- see this AP article
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article

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