Ahead of BlackBerry Z10's launch date in India, the debate no longer seems to be if it is a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. The buildup during the weeks after the BB10 launch in the advanced markets has settled that debate for sure - BlackBerry's comeback has looked imminent, almost.
A question of greater interest to analysts now is how deep, wide and far this new success would be running. More pointedly, does BB10 give BlackBerry the firepower to take the might of Android and iOS head-on? And specifically, will it be 'sold out' in India just as it was in the US and Europe?
The biggest thing that could work - and already is working - to BlackBerry's advantage is the brand value, which remains quite strong. And with the channels still in place it won't be too hard for the brand to make a comeback - the possibility of a midway goof-up now looks remote. Equally important is the fact that it's a cash-rich company, and perhaps even more important is that RIM (now BlackBerry) has been among the few mobile device companies that have been good at making money after selling the device, the other notable ones being Apple and Amazon.
Yet, the speed at which bookings flowed in the UK and Canada for BlackBerry's Z10 device sketched a new angle of analyst scepticism. Did that indicate a demand-positive or a supply-limitation, it was asked.
Answers from BlackBerry would need to come in the form of a more robust inventory, to begin with. An announcement on the number of units sold and preorders would also help, though that is unlikely to happen until the launch happens in the biggest smartphone market-the US-expectedly around April.
In the meantime, a good sign is that there have been no bad signs so far. BlackBerry has produced a next-generation OS, showcased a cool new device and done a well-received launch. The'cool factor'could prove critically useful when it comes to winning new customers while serving the die-hard texting needs of old loyalists in a much better way.
Z10's features are quite comparable with the likes of iPhone 5, Galaxy SIII and Lumia 920. The camera is as good or better and so is the screen resolution or even the specs-2GB RAM instead of 1GB with comparable models from most of the other makers. Only the screen size seems to be a tad smaller, but not significantly so, at 4.2 inches.
BlackBerry's recipe for a success looks like this: offer all the contemporary smartphone features to draw new users but also make the email feature-it's core strength-better than the rest. All, powered by a new-generation OS!
Could that be the new CEO's device in the making?
Faux pasby the competition has rendered things less demanding for BlackBerry compared to the situation until about a year ago. Events like Apple's famous Maps fiasco are likely to make consumers more forgiving of BlackBerry's earlier mistakes. While iPhone has lost some of its iconic sheen, Galaxy shipments too have suffered post the jury verdict against Samsung in the US.
While BlackBerry's comeback looks nearly certain for the first time in the past so many years, the momentum will become deterministic only after a positive build-up continues for next three to four quarters.
Before BlackBerry's market share started getting eroded after Apple's iPhone wrote new rules of the smartphone game in 2007, BlackBerry carried a formidably informal tag of being 'the CEOs' device.' It would need to win back the sobriquet-no less, if not more.
The availability of a wide range of apps or the lack of somewould also play a key role in determining BlackBerry's long-term success as would a device roadmap supported by some competitive if not aggressive pricing. And of course, it will have to keep fingers crossed that the competition doesn't launch anything disruptive anytime soon enough.
As on Feb 23, Z10 has reportedly quietly landed on some e-tailing sites for an India price of Rs 45,000, which is clearly higher than Rs 39,000 expected earlier. The formal launch is yet to happen though.
As far as the India launch is concerned, it's no longer about convincing potential users about the BB10's or Z10's capabilities. That task is done and over. Now, it's going to be all about pricing the device right.
Will a premium pricing of Rs 45,000 help position it as the 'CEO's new device?' What if Indian CEOs find that a little too greedy of BlackBerry? Answering that question successfully is where the challenge lies for the marketers.
(25-02-2013- Deepak Kumar, Founder Analyst at BusinessandMarket.net , can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed are personal)