BlackBerry finally surprises market in a good way by posting quarterly profit

Will Q10 launches be as glitzy as this Z10 debut in London?
Will Q10 launches be as glitzy as this Z10 debut in London?
Image: Jon Furniss/Invision/AP
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Even with highly anticipated products in the BlackBerry 10 lineup, it’s been hard for the company, formerly known as Research in Motion, to catch a break. In February, co-founder Jim Balsillie sold his 5% stake, leading to jokes that even he didn’t believe in the new touch-screen Z10 model. And just a few days ago, Goldman Sachs downgraded Blackberry because of tepid Z10 sales, sending the stock falling.

Today, BlackBerry finally has some good news: it announced an unexpected profit, when most analysts predicted a loss. And the $98 million in net income for the fiscal fourth quarter was the first earnings report to include Z10 sales.

Still, the profit comes more from cost-cutting, as BlackBerry missed its sales estimate. While the Z10 had a glitzy launch overseas, its US roll-out was criticized for being a bit disorganized, and some stores hardly advertised the new model, which is aimed at helping BlackBerry compete with Samsung’s Galaxy and Apple’s iPhone.

But the full effects of the Z10 launch in the US are only just taking hold. And the new Q10, which has the BlackBerry signature keyboard, will come out in April. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said today that more than half of the buyers for the new BlackBerry 10 lineup are coming from other platforms.

As a result, there seems to be more potential for upside for BlackBerry—a significant change from a year ago, when many in the media, analyst and investor worlds predicted BlackBerry’s doom. A drop in sales as more people switched to iPhones and other devices caused BlackBerry to be seen as a “has-been” device, and executives even said they would basically give up on the consumer market. New management was brought in to confront these woes.

Revenues for the last fiscal year dropped by 40% and there was still a revenue decrease in the last quarter, so it’s not out of the woods yet. Now it’s all about execution—and hopefully BlackBerry executives have learned from the Z10 launch to ensure the Q10 unveiling goes more smoothly. BlackBerry needs to keep the momentum going and bring back the cool factor to avoid being written off again.