The Z10 was incredibly important to BlackBerry when announced in January 2013. The touchscreen smartphone was its attempt to woo consumers who had taken to the virtual keyboard on Apple’s iPhone and smartphones running Google’s (GOOG) Android. It was the initial device running the all new BB10 operating system, and it arrived at a time when smartphones running Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone 8 were threatening BlackBerry for third place in the mobile platform war.
While reviews were generally positive, instead of delivering a a phone that would compete with the best for 2013, BlackBerry had delivered a flagship smartphone that was competitive with last year’s models and brought nothing really new to the game. As one reviewer put it: “Three years ago, the BlackBerry Z10 could have been a revolutionary phone.”
When the 2013 crop of smartphones from competitors like Samsung (SSNLF) and Nokia (NOK) arrived, the Z10 was smoked — it seemed small and underpowered. BlackBerry is expecting to write off $960 million in unsold inventory this quarter, mostly Z10s which are already being repositioned as “free on contract” devices. Meanwhile, Windows Phone eclipsed BlackBerry as the third-most-popular mobile platform while those Z10s sat on store shelves.