BlackBerry Clings to the Q10's Promise

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- BlackBerry (BBRY) has been forgotten about again.

Last fall, everyone had given up on BlackBerry after it dropped to $6 a share. Even when it made a move from $6 to $9 in a few short weeks, people still ridiculed the stock.

It wasn't until the stock went on a run from $9 to $18 that people really sat up and took notice.

That remarkable run was in the lead-up to the January release of the two new BlackBerry phones: the Z10 and the Q10, the all-touch and keyboard phones, respectively.

It's fair to say that most people who were excited by the new phones were eager for the keyboard version. That's the one that people have clung on to their old BlackBerrys for. There are still more than 70 million BlackBerry subscribers out there around the world, after all.

However, since the initial launch in January, BlackBerry's stock has been very hard to trade. First, it dropped swiftly before the January keynote was even over. It's never seen $18 again. In fact, it briefly got down to $12 in the weeks after that keynote.

There have been several disappointments since the initial product unveil. First, people scratched their heads over why there would be such a delay until the new phones shipped. Then, people wondered why the first phones to ship were going to be the all-touch phones. The all-keyboard phone -- the Q10 -- was not going to start shipping until May.

The initial buzz about sales of the new Z10 phones came and went. There hasn't seemed to be a universal sense that BlackBerry is going to be a runaway success. And this has just fed into the skeptics of the stock.

When a third of a stock's float is held short, it's hard to imagine one with more skeptics.

My view is that most BlackBerry critics are of the opinion that this is a stock that had its fun going from $6 to $18 but that was just a mirage before reality sets in and this stock goes back to becoming a Palm and running out of cash. They are just waiting for the fall from grace.

With so much time passing since the original January product launch and not much to show so far, these critics feel the end is near for BlackBerry. However, I think the critics are forgetting about the importance of the Q10.

The Q10 has only come out in the U.K. so far and -- as of Wednesday -- Canada. Just like we saw when the Z10 was released, there are some intermittent reports of "success" so far on a store-by-store basis. We keep hearing about "sellouts" without any idea of how many phones each of those stores received in the first place.

However, it would be foolish to underestimate how many executives -- just in North America alone -- are still out there with their 5-year-old clunky BlackBerrys just waiting to upgrade to the Q10. A lot of these people are being supplied with BlackBerrys by their CIOs. Therefore, don't expect to see them in line-ups at Best Buy ( BBY)in Canada this weekend.

The point is that Q10 will inspire the biggest number of upgrades from the existing subscriber base over the next couple of months (especially as the Q10 comes to the U.S. at the end of this month).

Because there's not as much attention on BlackBerry the stock today as there was back in January at the keynote launch, I would expect BlackBerry's stock to do well over the next couple of weeks as we hear more and more about how the Q10 launch is going.

You should also watch out for the possibility of some kind of strategic investment in BlackBerry by some big brother type or some kind of "strategic licensing" deal. My suspicion is that CEO Thorsten Heins wanted to get the launches of both the Z10 and Q10 out of the way before doing those kinds of deals, in order to give himself the most leverage in those discussions.

In any case, don't forget about BlackBerry. We could be about to hear a slew of good news, strategic deals and some positive earnings in the June report. If true, that will give the shorts a bad case of heartburn.

At the time of publication, the author was long BBRY.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Eric Jackson is founder and Managing Member of Ironfire Capital and the general partner and investment manager of Ironfire Capital US Fund LP and Ironfire Capital International Fund, Ltd. In January 2007, Jackson started the world's first Internet-based campaign to increase shareholder value at Yahoo!, leading to a change in CEOs in 2007. He also spoke out in favor of Yahoo!'s accepting Microsoft's buyout offer in 2008. Global Proxy Watch named Jackson as one of its 10 "Stars" who positively influenced international corporate governance and shareowner value in 2007.

Prior to founding Ironfire Capital, Jackson was President and CEO of Jackson Leadership Systems, Inc., a leadership, strategy, and governance consulting firm. He completed his Ph.D. in the Management Department at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York, with a specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Governance, and holds a B.A. from McGill University.

He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at VoiceGenie Technologies, a software firm now owned by Alcatel-Lucent. In 2004, Jackson founded the Young Patrons' Circle at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, which is now the second-largest social and philanthropic group of its kind in North America, raising $500,000 annually for the museum. You can follow Jackson on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ericjackson or @ericjackson.

You can contact Eric by emailing him at eric.jackson@thestreet.com.

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