It doesn't matter how good a new phone is - if it doesn't have support from carriers, the odds of it becoming a success in a crowded phone market are slim to none. The biggest cost associated with a phone over its life is the bill paid to the carrier each month, and the carrier has a lot of power to influence what phone a customer will ultimately purchase.
Granted, many people know exactly what they want and will not be swayed. For countless others, however, the carrier's influence is strong. From commercials, to in-store placement, promotions and incentives, to the recommendations of the front line employees in retail stores, the carrier can maximize or minimize the chance a specific phone ends up in the hands of a subscriber.
We have about 1,000 people from BlackBerry that we will send into all stores US-wide
In the US, BlackBerry presence within carrier stores has been minimal over the past year. We have heard it often. Walk into a carrier store and it can almost be an Easter egg hunt trying to track down the BB7 phones. And if and when you find one, the odds were good the sales rep would try and talk you into buying something else. With support like that, it's not surprising that BlackBerry market share slipped in the US quicker than in other markets. For BlackBerry to build a strong presence in the US again with BlackBerry 10 devices, the support from carriers *has* to change.
With BlackBerry now rolling out the Z10 in the US and the Q10 soon to follow, I asked BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins during our sit down interview on the eve of the Z10 AT&T launch how he felt about upcoming BlackBerry 10 support from carriers in the US:
I cannot complain about carrier support, I really have to say. I think it's driven by their strong wish to solve the duopoly situation that they are in. They need a viable alternative, which BlackBerry 10 is to them. It's not just a knock-off of something else, of another platform. They helped us a lot, in the last one-and-a-half years, to actually maintain our installed base as much as we could. They were very supportive. In terms of presentation in the shop, in the points of sales, absolutely supportive, and they sometimes say, "We're rooting for you." What else do you want?
They're helping. There is also investment on their side into marketing money, into marketing and promoting their product, and we have about 1,000 people from BlackBerry that we will send into all stores US-wide. They will counsel people, they will be known as BlackBerry 10 people, so we're supporting this from our side as well.
It's clear that the first few days of AT&T sales are not yet fully representative of the presence and support BlackBerry 10 phones will ultimately have within carrier stores. There definitely is more to come. With the T-Mobile and Verizon launching the Z10 on March 26th and 28th, respectively, we should see both carrier marketing and in-store activity around the Z10 begin to ramp up.
As for these BlackBerry 10 people... I'm looking forward to meeting some face to face. Let's hope they carrier the same passion for BlackBerry as members of CrackBerry Nation!