BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins earned his paycheck on Tuesday while taking several tough questions from investors at his company’s annual shareholder meeting. One particularly pointed question came from a retail investor who called the United States launch of the flagship BlackBerry Z10 smartphone “a disaster” that undermined BlackBerry’s claims that it was on the comeback trail.
“I personally watched the rollout of the Z10 in the U.S. and my sense is the rollout of the Z10 was a disaster,” he said. “I talked to staff at many points of sales and they were inadequately trained or not trained at all… marketing materials were missing.”
Heins admitted that the company had “learned” some key lessons from its launch of the Z10 in the U.S. but flatly denied that it constituted a “disaster.”
“The challenge we had was launching a whole new platform with a whole set of new apps,” Heins explained. “That is a humongous task to educate a market that is basically over-served by all the products coming in. We trained 50,000 sales representatives in webinars. Did we reach every shop? Probably not. Is it disaster? I don’t think so.”
We’ve read several reports detailing how American wireless carriers, and AT&T in particular, put little to no effort in selling the Z10 to its customers. Heins was careful to not criticize any U.S. wireless carriers though, and only said that they were under significant pressure to go with current market trends and not take risks by expending resources promoting underdog platforms.
“It’s hard to convince them to go away from where the pack is,” Heins said.