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Ailing BlackBerry launches budget smartphone – FIGHTBACK

May 14, 2014

BlackBerry yesterday launched a new budget handset in Indonesia, one of its last bastions, in the hope it will take off in emerging markets and stem a decline in the smartphone maker's fortunes.

The touchscreen Z3, which is slated for release in six other fast-growing markets after Indonesia, is the first new BlackBerry phone since chief executive John Chen took the helm of the crisis-hit company in November.

The handset is also the first to be produced from the Canadian firm's partnership with Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, which also makes gadgets for Apple, and is a key test of whether the new strategy will work.

BlackBerry hopes the Indonesian model whose full name is the Z3 "Jakarta Edition" will be a hit in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, where the company maintains a loyal following, thanks in part to the popularity of its BBM messaging service.

The phone will be available in shops from tomorrow and will cost 2,199,000 rupiah ($190). It will be released later in countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and India, Chen told reporters at a launch event in Jakarta.

But even in Indonesia, the company's biggest market in Asia according to IDC telecoms consultancy, sales have dropped dramatically in the past year and analysts are sceptical the new phone will do much to help.

"The launch of this device is really BlackBerry's final stand in the Indonesian market," IDC's Sudev Bangah told AFP.

IDC said BlackBerry's market share had collapsed from about 40 percent in 2011 to around five percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, due in particular to fierce competition from Samsung.

It is the same story in other markets worldwide as BlackBerry fights a losing battle to keep up with fierce competition from Apple's iPhone and devices using the Google Android operating system.

The once-dominant smartphone maker has suffered heavy losses and slashed thousands of jobs in recent years.

The company even put itself up for sale last year but abandoned hopes of finding a buyer several months later, and ousted chief executive Thorsten Heins.


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Source: Daily Tribune (Bahrain)

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