RSS
Surprise! BlackBerry made a profit last quarter
The long-struggling company seems to have a promising future in emerging markets like India
The BlackBerry Z10 sold out in India after just two days on the market.
The BlackBerry Z10 sold out in India after just two days on the market. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
H

ere's something you probably thought you'd never hear again: BlackBerry just made a profit.

On Thursday, the troubled phone-maker formerly known as Research in Motion reported a surprising $98 million profit last quarter, or 22 cents a share.

It's not all good, however: BlackBerry still recorded a net loss of $646 million for the fiscal year, and perhaps more tellingly, lost 3 million users worldwide. BlackBerry is now down to 79 million subscribers.

On the bright side, the company's new BlackBerry 10 phones — the glitzy, touch-only Z10 and the keyboard-equipped Q10 — had not yet gone on sale in the United States when the fourth quarter ended on March 2. By that point, the Z10 had only been on sale for about a month in select markets like Canada, the U.K., the United Arab Emirates, and India, and the company says it shipped about a million of its next-gen BB10 phones in that short window.

So... what are we to make of the news? For starters, the Z10 appears to be doing well in emerging markets. According to CNET, the Z10 sold out in India within two days of launching. (It also sold out in Canada, where BlackBerry is based.) That's promising, considering India has a smartphone penetration rate of 10 percent. As ZDNet points out, that means there are 120 million potential new consumers up for grabs in a market where the iPhone is largely nonexistent.

But in Britain, which retains about 8 million BlackBerry users, sales were worse than expected.

It's also worth noting that the Q10 hasn't even seen the light of day yet, and is still set for an April launch. While the touchscreen-based Z10 debuted to largely favorable reviews, keyboard pugilists may be more inclined to go with the phone that's more familiar. Even Google chairman Eric Schmidt recently admitted he's still addicted to his BlackBerry. That says something about the physical QWERTY's staying power. 

Of course, BlackBerry still has to prove to shareholders that it can stake out a comfortable slice of the smartphone market as it doubles down on enterprise. Jeffries analyst Peter Misek tells ZDNet that he believes BlackBerry "will gain traction through this year," and will see a "significant ramp in revenues next year." We'll see...

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

MOST POPULAR ON THE WEEK
Subscribe to the Week