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GLOBAL TECH WRAP: Whoops - BlackBerry shares plummet as comeback phone launched

Facebook reported a 40% jump in fourth-quarter revenue to $US1.59 billion - in part because of a rise in mobile ad revenue. Mobile ads accounted for 23% of ad revenue, up from 14% in the previous quarter as, notably, daily mobile users overtook web users of the social network for the first time. But net profit fell 79% to $US64 million - slightly better than expected. CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said costs would increase 50% this year as the social network hired more staff, and developed new tools for advertisers. The spend-up was higher than anticipated. Shares [NAS:FB] fell 5% in after-hours trading.

Kim Dotcom's new Mega file sharing service has been hit with 150 copyright infringement notices, IDG News reports. Dotcom's US lawyer, Ira Rothken, said the notices came from the US and other countries. Mega was working quickly to address them and would take down infringing content. Dotcom and Rothken argue all file sharing services, includiing Dropbox and Google's YouTube, attract copyright-infringing content but that on balance such "dual use" services are a public good. Rothken argues Mega complies with laws around copyright and file takedowns. And although files are encrypted, Mega has pledged users will not be anonymous and that it will cooperate with authorities where necessary. On Twitter, Dotcom claimed there were now 50 million files on Mega, so 150 was a small number of infringements, and less than that attracted by Google.

Chinese hackers have spent four months trying to infiltrate the New York Times' computer systems, the paper reports. The attacks followed a Times investigation into the billions accumulated in various business deals by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his family.

Whoops - BlackBerry shares plummet as comeback phone launched
BlackBerry shares [NAS:RIMM] were down nearly 8% in late trading as the launched new software and handsets this morning.

The Canadian company used to own the smartphone market, but saw its share collapse under 10% in four years (or barely two ownership cycles) under the iPhone and Android assault.

Today in New York it officially launched its big comeback drive in the form of its new BlackBerry 10 software, and two new handsets: the Z10 (its first all-touch phone since the sluggish, ill-fated BlackBerry Storm), and the Q10, which sports a traditional physical keyboard.

The company also said it was changing its name from RIM (Research in Motion) to simply BlackBerry.

ABOVE: BlackBerry's official demo video for its new Z10. While apps and cloud features are weak, but the BlackBerry 10 software looks undeniably slick on this 4.2-inch display, 130g handset. Other tech specs, including a dualcore processor, 8 megapixel camera and HD video, are standard for any smartphone these days. It ships mid-March.

Wall Street Journal tech doyen Walter Mossberg, who has been using a Z10, for the past week, says it offers a much more iPhone or Android-like experience.

The Z10 has "the best virtual keyboard on a smartphone," with very clever predictive text.

He was also impressed by the Hub, which aggregates all email accounts, social media feeds and Blackberry Messenger into a single update stream.

That's the good news.

The bad: Walt criticises the fact there is no native cloud ecosystem for storing or synching files online (like Apple's iCloud, Google's Drive and Microsoft's SkyDrive). Although the third-party Dropbox could be used, it was less satisfying (Wot no Mega app? - Editor).

He fears the Z10 will be a "tweener" phone. BlackBerry users will find it too unfamiliar, and Android and iPhone users will be put off by the lack of apps. There are 70,000 apps available, which sounds a lot but is only around 10% of those offered by Apple or Android, and key apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Instagram, Spotify and Pandora were missing at launch.

In the US, all four major phone companies will carry the Z10 (the Q10 will follow later).

Here, there's been no word from Telecom or Vodafone so far (2degrees has never supported the BlackBerry platform).

ABOVE: BlackBerry's market cap hit a high of $US84 billion in 2008, shortly after the first iPhone was launched. Today's fall reverses a recent modest comeback that saw the company's shares up 53% over the past year to value it at just under $US8 billion (Nasdaq 10-year performance chart from S&P Capital IQ; click to zoom).

Comments and questions

Old tech and old ideas - will stick to my Iphone 5...

Strange as it sounds, there clearly seems to be no room in the global smartphone market for two companies that sell their software exclusively on their own hardware. Nokia and Blackberry were able to compete while smartphones were only a small part of the overall phone market, with Blackberry being the high-end leader and Nokia supplementing its ordinary phones with symbian smartphones.
But now that it's all about smartphones and Apple has the brand recognition no one seems to be able to replicate Apple's ability to lock its software to its hardware. Nokia had to get into bed with Microsoft to have a chance of survival. And Microsoft has not put all its eggs in the Nokia basket.
Android was always an open platform and has never given exclusive support to one handset maker. Even now with owning Motorola, Goolge knows if it favours Motorola it'll be on the way out of smartphone domination.

Blackberry needs to decide whether it's a software or hardware company and go with that. Either open its software to other handset makers (unlikely Samsung and other leading handset makers will make phones for 3 OSs) or ditch the software and concentrate on selling handsets using an OS that has better support. I'd suggest they try to partner up with Microsoft. Blackberry have always been more about the business user for phones, and Microsoft makes most of its profits from business customers.
Put WP8 on Blackberry and you might just see Blackberry rise from the ashes, and you might also get three phone OSs with substantial market share. Unlike now with Apple + Android = 90% of the market.

Android's my choice for now. But work makes me use a Blackberry. Because we are a Windows computer environment I've recommended to my employers that we move to WP8 for our smartphones. Even though I prefer Android, WP8 is a very good choice for our IT set up. Better, at least, than Blackberry.

"Blackberry needs to decide whether it's a software or hardware company and go with that."

Stupid comment, just because it's working for Samsung doesn't mean it will work for others. Look at HTC, LG and Microsoft. LG Androids are totally cr@p, same as Huawei and other makers with no experience in making phones. WP8 is struggling.

Whilst RIM may never be the leader in the market it once held but they has the opportunity to differentiate themselves with their knowledge of building phones and related software services.

Not sure why you're calling this a stupid statement.

You may disagree with it, but RIM needs to do something, because they're current model just ain't working.

It sounds like a reasonable statement to me.

Too little, too late.

A great pity, really. Blackberry's messaging technology was and is vastly superior (and more secure) to that used by Apple and Android. You'll note that cr*ppy third world dictatorships don't try and ban Apple or Android, but they did ban Blackberrys as being too secure for them to listen in on.

But Blackberry just couldn't compete with the superior user interface of Apple. Maybe this will give them a shot. I'll certainly take a look at it, if only for nostalga's sake.

Stopped reading after no Gmail. Not supporting the world's largest email provider. What's the point then?

Not having an app is different from not supporting GMail. You'd just have to set it up as an email account as you would for Exchange email or (shudder) xtra...

True - the main difference here is that the Blackberry environment would simply make your Gmail account more secure (on your phone).

Not sure about that. The point of Blackberry was that it was encrypted point to point from the handset to the Blackberry Enterprise Server (Likewise Blackberry Messenger which was encrypted from phone-to-phone). Non-BES communications are only as secure as the native communications.

Can youse play Angry Birds on it?

Ahhh, Bobby-Boo Plimpey, if the answer to your fine question is "no", then there lies a big problem for Blackberry :(