Mobile

BlackBerry ships 1M BB10 devices in Q4 but loses 3M subscribers and co-founder Lazaridis

Well look at that, BlackBerry is on the rebound.

BlackBerry shipped 6 million smartphones during the fourth quarter of 2013, 1 million of which were newer BlackBerry 10 devices, the company announced this morning. Those shipments are slightly lower than what analysts expected (7 million units overall, 1.1 million of which were BB10), but they were enough to help BlackBerry generate a healthy profit of $94 million on revenues of $2.7 billion.

That’s a big leap from the mere $19 million profit the company made last quarter (and even that was mostly due to a hefty tax settlement).

Despite the good news, BlackBerry also revealed that it has 76 million subscribers, down from 79 million last quarter. That’s to be expected — BlackBerry 10 only launched a few months ago, and the company’s Q4 ended on March 2, so it didn’t include the U.S. BB10 release.

The BlackBerry 10 sales aren’t phenomenal, but they show that people actually want RIM’s new phones. I found the BlackBerry Z10 to be pretty darn boring in my review, but I’ve pretty much given up on trying to understand the BlackBerry faithful (people who’d buy anything this company produces). Now that it’s making a decent profit again, BlackBerry says it will step up its marketing spend by 50 percent. It’ll be interesting to see how the company’s fans react to the upcoming BlackBerry Q10, which combines BB10 with the company’s traditional hardware keyboard.

“It’s the next 1-2 quarters that will really tell the story of how well the devices are being received in the US,” said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. “The big challenge for BlackBerry is to up the marketing and get people interested in the devices.”

BlackBerry also noted that it shipped 370,000 PlayBook tablets in Q4 (not that anyone’s really paying attention to that device anymore).

Additionally, BlackBerry announced that co-founder Mike Lazaridis, who now serves as vice-chairman and director after stepping down from his co-CEO role last year, will retire on May 1. He’ll be focusing on his massive new Quantum Valley Investment fund for quantum computing.

Given Lazaridis’ dramatically diminished role at the company he helped found in 1984, it’s not surprising to see him leave. His former co-CEO partner, Jim Balsillie, left the company after reportedly trying to reinvent it.

“Mike revolutionized the mobile communications industry and is widely recognized as one of Canada’s greatest innovators,” said BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins during the company’s earnings call today. “I deeply respect his desire to devote his full-time efforts to his new venture.”

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat


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