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Just Surviving, Mr Shareholder. Just Surviving

Nauman is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

The recently released BlackBerry Z10 has been given a significant mission to revitalize the ailing fortunes of Research in Motion, now renamed BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY). The handset along with the software it's incorporated with -- BlackBerry 10 OS, will either be the start of a new era of progress for the company or perhaps the last modern-era smartphone it ever produces. While currently almost fully dependent on its loyal fans and corporate customers, the new device will have to reclaim the same mass appeal BlackBerry phones had back in the old days if it wants to become a successful turnaround story. But to achieve that, Z10 will have to tussle against the iPhone 5 and top Google Android phones.

In terms of user experience and software, the Z10's Blackberry 10 OS is definitely a pleasant improvement over BB7. BlackBerry definitely needed a new OS to compete with the likes of Google's Android Jelly Bean, iOS 6, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, all of which had outperformed the outdated BB7 platform.

BB10 is very similar to other smartphones operating systems with its swipe gestures that allow more fluid, natural, and intuitive way to access different programs and interfaces. BlackBerry Hub, with the user's entire social and email accounts integrated into one app, is also impressive. The primary downside I can think of is the lack of quality apps. However, BlackBerry has assured everyone that many developers are creating and porting applications for the new platform.

The Z10 is the flagship phone for the new BlackBerry's 10 OS. With a large 4.2-inch display and pleasant form factor, and weight of under 140g, the Z10 is a grandiose leap forward for Blackberry. It has an impressive 1280x768 display, same as Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Lumia 920. But many consumers assess the image quality by the display itself, which can be misleading since different display panels produce varying colors and density. So Nokia still wins for the highest pixel density. Other than that, it has 8 MP camera with a resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels having features like LED flash, autofocus and face detection. It runs on a dual-core 1.5 GHz Krait and 2GB RAM internal memory with 16GB internal storage support. Since all of these are fairly standard in smartphones today, it would be very hard to convince consumers to purchase the Z10 over its competition just on tech specs alone.

The embattled Finnish phone maker Nokia itself is under extreme pressure. But with its shares trading below $4, I've several reasons to expect that Nokia will recapture its glory days again. The strong shipments' trend for Asha and Lumia devices along with the improved financial at its Nokia Siemens Network would revitalize Nokia's fundamentals. Moreover, any potential sale of Nokia Siemens in the future will help the company generate much required cash to survive in the smartphone industry. But Nokia will have to keep up with new innovative strategies for its new flagship devices to ensure that its future phones be on par with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S IV and Google Nexus 5.

For BlackBerry Z10, the US will be the toughest market to crack -- where it will contend with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) products. On the back of strong iPhone 5 and iPad sales, Apple iOS has reached more than 50% of the US market share -- Apple sold more than 47 million iPhones and shipped more than 22 million tablets in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Despite its worldwide market share falling to below 15% in the early 2013, Apple's iOS 6 still has more than half of the ad impressions market in the US, which makes devices running on iOS far more commercially effective. This compares to the closest rival Android's ad impression market share of around 25%. The US ad impressions market is massive with more than 75% share of the total global mobile ad-market. Moreover, Apple's tablets have the highest cost per thousand ad impressions in the entire industry.

But in the last few years, BlackBerry's market share has declined by more than 75%. The company is far behind in the US, with a less than 3% market share in the fourth-quarter of 2012. Its global share also stands at less than 5%, down from 20% just three years ago. Consequently, BlackBerry shares have plummeted along with the company's market share, and the stock is down almost 85% from its 2008 peak.

The bottom line

The BlackBerry new flagship device Z10, although a major upgrade over its previous phones, may be too late to save the troubled company. Though BlackBerry is now fully dependent on the future success of the Z10 and its subsequent upgrades, there is nothing unconventional about the device that widely distinguishes it from other smartphones already in the market.

Nevertheless, Z10 may be just enough to allure a few new customers, while retaining BlackBerry loyal die-hard fans and corporate customers onboard. Thus, BlackBerry may survive to fight another day. This scenario feels like a scene from the JamesBond 007 film Die Another Day:

Mr. Chang (Hotel Manager): Been busy, have we, Mr. Bond?

Pierce Brosnan 007: Just surviving, Mr Chang. Just surviving.

Since BlackBerry already had its SKYFALL, I wonder what will be next. The License to Kill itself or hitting a Casino Royale Jackpot. Hopefully it's the latter.


Nauman Aly has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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