BlackBerry 10 dismal shipment figures: It's the keyboard

BlackBerry reported that it shipped significantly more older devices than new ones with BlackBerry 10. That's not surprising given enthusiasts' love for the keyboard.

Q10 keyboard
Image credit: RIM

The first term you think of when you think of BlackBerry is beleaguered. The maker of the BlackBerry has fallen as far as a company can and still be in business. Once the darling of the enterprise and then the consumer space, the BlackBerry hasn't been able to keep pace with its competition.

The introduction of BlackBerry 10 (BB10), the modernized version of the OS on the latest phones by BlackBerry, was viewed as the last attempt by BlackBerry to remain viable in the market. BlackBerry pulled out all the stops to make BB10 a sleek touch OS to compete with the iPhone and Android phones.

See also: BlackBerry Z10: Refreshing but not thirst quenching (review)

The latest numbers for BlackBerry shipments seem to indicate that BlackBerry customers, and in spite of appearances there are still millions of them, prefer phones running on the older OS. As Matt Miller points out , BlackBerry shipped 4.08 million BlackBerrys running the older OS and only 2.72 million phones running the new BB10. On the surface that would imply that the new OS is not as popular as the older version, but I don't think that's the case.

Those shipment numbers cover the latest quarter of BlackBerry's reporting, and the fact is the Z10 handset was the only one shipping with BB10 for the entire quarter. The newest BB10 phone, the Q10, has only recently shipped in the global market, and only very recently in the US. That's significant as the Z10, which should make up most of those shipping figures, is the new BlackBerry without a physical keyboard.

No matter how desperately BlackBerry wants to break into the touch phone market, the single attribute of the BlackBerry that has always attracted customers is the physical QWERTY keyboard. The BlackBerry is famous for the keyboard, and there's no reason to expect this to change with BB10. Most if not all of those older BlackBerrys that shipped in the latelst quarter likely had physical keyboards.

There may be other factors contributing to the fact that older BlackBerrys are still outshipping the new Z10 almost two-to-one but I think it's primarily the keyboard that is attracting buyers. They want the keyboard and they are not letting the bling of the new OS and the new handset affect their decision. Keyboard or nothing is what these numbers indicate to me.

That means the newest BlackBerry with the physical keyboard is the most important handset of BlackBerry's history. The Q10 has it all, the new BB10 system, a touch screen, and the physical QWERTY keyboard. This is the phone that can get BlackBerry enthusiasts to upgrade to the new OS.

Whether the Q10 can compete with the competition remains to be seen. It better be able to compete with old BlackBerrys or it could be the company's last hurrah.

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