BlackBerry investors grill CEO about weakness in U.S. market

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) investors are very unhappy with the company's performance in the U.S. market and are looking for answers as to how the company plans to overcome its current challenges. During the firm's annual investor conference, shareholders questioned CEO Thorsten Heins about its difficulty penetrating the U.S. market with its new BlackBerry 10 OS. According to reports, one investor even called the U.S. launch of BlackBerry 10 "a disaster."

Heins disagreed with that investor's characterization but admitted that the U.S. market is very competitive. Indeed, the smartphone maker has seen its market share in the U.S. dwindle from more than 50 percent in 2009 to less than 3 percent today, according to market research firm Gartner. 

BlackBerry works with U.S. operators on products, but the company faces stiff competition from other platforms and device makers, such as Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android devices and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone. So far operators have not been very aggressive with their marketing of the new BB10 devices to their customers. Heins noted that many operators have their own agenda, and some view it as easier to sell the iPhone or an Android device rather than risk a new platform such as BB10.

Nevertheless, Heins painted an optimistic picture, saying that the company was still in the early stages of recovery. Responding to one question about the potential that BlackBerry would split into two companies  --separating the device business from the enterprise services business--Heins said he would be open to anything that would create shareholder value. However, he said he wants the company to generate value on its own before he would entertain such a move. In addition, he said he was open to partnerships and alliances, but he declined to say who potential partners might be.

In late June, BlackBerry reported a surprise loss for its first fiscal quarter, and though it reported an increase in smartphone sales compared with its fiscal fourth quarter, sales of new BlackBerry 10 devices were still struggling to gain traction. In a worrying sign for the company, BlackBerry said its subscriber base fell by 4 million in the quarter, from 76 million down to 72 million.  

For more:
-see this CNET article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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