The official launch of BlackBerry 10 has now happened. Much of the launch information was already known, some was totally unknown, and some of it was uncertain but somewhat predictable - like the US launch coming later than other markets.
Specifically, the BlackBerry Z10 has already hit the UK market. It went on sale today. All three major Canadian carriers launch it on February 5th, which is less than a week after the launch event But the United States? BlackBerry won't launch the Z10 in this hugely important market until March.
We already know how disappointed many of you are from the poll that Kevin posted earlier today.
Disappointing but somewhat predictable
If you've been following the pre-launch news closely, as we have, then you surely noticed a lot of news relating to retail launch activity in the UK market. Even before the launch I was getting pinged by friends connected to the industry in that market telling me retailers were likely to launch within a day of the BlackBerry event.
And here in Canada we've also seen a ton of headlines. Every carrier has established a Z10 preorder system, and it seems like things are off to an amazing start (more on that further down).
In the US, we've really not seen much. It's been quiet. There have been plenty of suggestions that the US launch might not happen as early as other markets. We just had no real certainty around it. So I think it's safe to say that we shouldn't be terribly surprised by this news. Yes, it's disappointing to find out that the logical prediction was correct. We get it. That all said, BlackBerry did announce they will be running a commercial during the Super Bowl this weekend. When that news crossed the wire, it raised the expectations of would be BlackBerry 10 owners that they would be able to buy the Z10 soon.
Possible explanations for a USA delay
In the press Q&A session yesterday, in New York City, one of the first questions Thorsten handled pertained to the reasons behind the later US launch. He explained that it was due to a longer testing process by US carriers.
I don't totally buy this explanation. If you think about it, the phone is obviously ready to launch for LTE / HSPA / GSM networks. It's been through the proper testing by European carriers. In the United States, AT&T has a very similar network. Testing shouldn't be any different. They should be able to launch anytime.
T-Mobile runs AWS spectrum, which requires a different version of the phone. It's possible this could take a bit longer, but it's not like AT&T would sit around waiting for the competition.
Sprint, as far as we've heard, has a deal with Apple that requires them to hit iPhone sales quotas. So they aren't interested in pushing any other full touch phones. This is probably why we're seeing Sprint making an official support announcement for the Q10, when it launches. But we've seen nothing about Sprint support for the Z10.
Among the big US carriers, that leaves Verizon. They've clearly announced support for the Z10. But this phone would require an LTE and CDMA radio. This is definitely more complex (and unique) compared to LTE / HSPA / GSM phones. It's entirely possible that Verizon's testing process is just not as far along as the other guys. And, given the history of Verizon's support for new BlackBerry devices (remember the Storm exclusives?), it's possible that there is an agreement in place that guarantees Verizon a spot at the table upon initial launch.
I'm speculating a bit here, but it is my best guess that Verizon is the gating factor in the US launch of the BlackBerry Z10.
The silver lining
The reality is whatever it is. We can't change it. Yes it would be nice if the US launch happened a bit sooner. But we've already waited 2 years and 9 months for BlackBerry 10 (counting from the date of the QNX acquisition). Another few weeks isn't going to hurt much.
And it will make the launch a bit more compelling too. We did hear yesterday that by the time the US launch happens, there will be over 100,000 apps in App World. Many of the big name apps we're waiting for could be included in this number. Wouldn't it be nicer to see Skype actually be available by the date of the US launch rather than being "committed"? Of course.
We also wouldn't be surprised to see BlackBerry push out at least one maintenance update to the operating system between now and the US launch. If you read our full BlackBerry 10 review and BlackBerry Z10 review, you'll notice we have plenty of suggestions on how things can be further improved. If BlackBerry can get those changes implemented in the next few weeks, it will make for an even smoother product that hits your waiting hands.
The delay of the Z10 also shouldn't affect the Q10, so it hopefully pushes their launch dates closer together. This is important for the US market where analysts and the press have previously, and incorrectly, criticized BlackBerry for abandoning physical keyboards (of course they aren't abandoning them). Finally, I do agree with something Kevin already said. It's pretty cool to see how many of you are completely pissed off about this delay. It means you care. It means you're buyers. That's very good news for investors. It would be much worse news for BlackBerry if nobody cared.
Earlier I promised to make a comment about Canada and pre-order sales. Well, during the press Q&A session yesterday, BlackBerry executives said that pre-orders in Canada were very strong. They said a big portion of pre-orders were coming from carrier customers who are not currently BlackBerry users. This is a really good sign. It says that BlackBerry 10 is helping the company recapture market share in Canada.
The US isn't quite the same as Canada. But they are both markets where BlackBerry market share has fallen hard in the last year. So if Canada is showing a comeback, I think it bodes well for the US.
In conclusion, we get it. Waiting sucks. But it won't be long and it's nice to see the obvious demand.