It's finally here: The U.S. launch of the BlackBerry Z10.
For BlackBerry at least, there's a lot at stake, as the phone ($199 with a 2-year contract) arrives on AT&T. This is the device that has to make fans believe in the company again. It's got to lure developers to make apps. And it's got to inspire enterprise customers to buy the revamped server software that's now designed to manage iPhones and Android phones as well as BlackBerry devices.
Investors, clearly, are optimistic: BlackBerry shares are up more than 35% this year on unusually heavy volume; an average of 65 million shares have been trading daily over the last 3 months, compared to around 47 million for Microsoft. But this is the day those hopes begin to face reality. Will there be lines for the Z10? Shortages? Will it sell for a premium on eBay?
And the more fundamental question: Is there even room for a third mobile platform in the fast-moving mobile arena?
Consider: Android is by far the leader, with 70% of the smartphone market in Q4, according to IDC. For all intents and purposes financially speaking, Android means Samsung these days; Samsung is the only profitable maker of Android phones, and it's thus the only one able to spend generously on marketing. Chetan Sharma, a longtime telecom industry analyst, tells CNBC that unless other Android phone makers like HTC, LG and Motorola can score a surprise hit with their new phones, they can write off 2013 as a failure.