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Job number one at BlackBerry: Beat Windows Phone 8

Going by the headlines and the tone of the news coverage, BlackBerry’s long-awaited product announcement went well.

The company’s – Research in Motion changed its name – new slab-like Z10 smartphones are already on sale in the UK with Canada to follow next week and the US soon after.

New Zealand is probably well down the list. By the time the new phones get here we’ll know if the company has a future.

A more traditional BlackBerry model with a tiny QWERTY keyboard, the Q10, is due to go on sale in April. If the Z10 fails to catch fire, then the Q10 will be the company’s last roll of the dice.

BlackBerry’s short-term goal will be to beat Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 into third place in the smartphone market behind Android and Apple. If it gets there, it has a chance of staying relevant.

The ace up BlackBerry’s sleeve is a large pool of dedicated crackberry addicts. Some have waited until now to upgrade their existing phones. If BlackBerry can win this market, it’ll stay in the game long enough to take a shot at Microsoft.

Most observers will tell you the lack of available apps for the new phones is a barrier. That’s less of a problem than you might think. There may be more than a million iPhone apps, but 90 per cent are rubbish. It’s more important to have the right apps for the target market.

Windows Phone 8 smartphones like the Nokia Lumia 920 are arguably better than competing Apple or Android models at the moment. They’re selling well, but have failed to make the critical breakthrough. BlackBerry won’t make that any easier.

Microsoft will survive even if it fails in the smartphone game, BlackBerry doesn’t have the advantage of alternative product lines to bail it out. Nor does Nokia.