BlackBerry's Q10 smartphone may not hit U.S. until May or June

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO Thorsten Heins said that the U.S. launch of the company's new Q10 smartphone, which sports a physical keyboard, may not come until eight to 10 weeks after the U.S. launch of the company's touchscreen Z10, which is expected by mid-March.

Last week Heins had indicated that the Q10 would hit U.S. carriers in April, but now that timeline appears to have been pushed back. Eight to 10 weeks after a mid-March Z10 launch would put the U.S. date for the Q10 launch in mid-May to early June. "We're trying to get it as close as we can," Heins said in an interview with the AP.

"We expect the first global carriers to launch the BlackBerry Q10 in April," BlackBerry spokeswoman Amy McDowell told AllThingsD. "We will announce new pricing and availability information as carriers roll out around the world. We are working closely with our carrier partners to accelerate their testing process, but cannot offer any specifics on U.S. availability."

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said last week it will launch the Q10 later this year but it did not give a launch date or a price. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) also said it will sell the Z10 and Q10 but did not give prices or release dates. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has said it will launch the Z10 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, but did not give a release date. T-Mobile USA has said it will sell the Z10 but didn't provide details.

A delayed U.S. launch of the Q10 could depress BlackBerry sales, especially among those customers who want a new BlackBerry with the company's traditional Qwerty keyboard.  

Meanwhile, the Z10 went on sales in Canada Tuesday to few lines. However, BlackBerry and the Canadian carriers selling the device said they were encouraged by early strong sales. In Canada, customers have been able to pre-order the Z10 for weeks, which may have contributed to the lackluster lines reported at retail and carrier stores in Canada.

A spokesman from Bell Mobility told the Wall Street Journal that Z10 pre-orders were "higher than for any other BlackBerry before" and "sales are quite robust." A spokeswoman for Rogers Communications told the Journal that customers have shown "great interest" in the new phones and that Rogers has received "thousands of pre-order requests," without specifying a number. Telus is also selling the phone in Canada, where it retails for $150 with a three-year contract, $30 cheaper than the iPhone 5.

Heins said BlackBerry is working to make its BB10 platform the center of a new mobile computing paradigm for devices beyond smartphone and tablets. "The vision is going to start to materialize this year," CMO Frank Boulben told Reuters. "You will be able to plug the (Z10) device into a docking station at the office and then all you need is a keyboard, a mouse and a screen. Combined with cloud services this would mean you don't need a laptop or a desktop." Heins has also hinted at using BlackBerry 10 in cars and other machine-to-machine applications.

Analysts seem encouraged by early response to the Z10. "We believe the decision to launch the full-touch BlackBerry Z10 first is a deliberate attempt to reposition the BlackBerry as more than just an e-mail-centric, enterprise optimized device. In our view, BlackBerry hopes to create a credible rival to flagship smartphones such as Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy S III and HTC's One X," CCS Insight analysts wrote in a note to clients. "We also believe that launching only one device reflects the tough decisions that the BlackBerry management team has had to take when deploying development resources within the company. Given the device took so long to come to market after repeated delays, it had to be near-perfect at launch to have a chance of success. Based our early experiences with the BlackBerry Z10, we believe it has achieved this goal."

For more:
- see this AP article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this NYT article
- see this Reuters article

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