BlackBerry says it will not launch its new smartphones in Japanese market

TORONTO – BlackBerry (TSX:BB) says while it has plans to launch its new smartphones in several countries, Japan won’t be one of them.

The company, which formerly called itself Research In Motion, said Thursday that a global rollout of the touchscreen and keypad versions of its devices in key markets will not extend to the region.

“Japan is not a major market for BlackBerry and we have no plans to launch BlackBerry 10 devices there at this time,” the company said in a statement.

“However, we will continue to support BlackBerry customers in Japan.”

A report from business publication Nikkei suggested that BlackBerry decided against a Japanese phone because it would be too costly to modify the language of the new operating system.

But a source familiar with the phone’s debut said the choice did not rest on costs associated specifically with the language settings.

The launch of a new phone is costly, especially when it comes to marketing the device against the more dominant competition.

In Japan, the marketshare of the BlackBerry has plummeted in recent years to levels that would make it difficult to sell a new device and operating system without it already having a strong reputation in other markets.

BlackBerry smartphones represented 0.2 per cent of the Japanese smartphone market in the first three quarters of 2012, according to research group IDC.

“This is a wise move by BlackBerry to deploy its resources where it’ll generate the greatest returns,” said Kevin Restivo, an analyst with IDC Corp. in Toronto.

“The Japanese smartphone market is dominated by Android-powered and iOS devices.”

Data from IDC said that Apple and Android phones represented 83.2 per cent of the Japanese smartphones in the first three quarters of last year.

In the initial rollout of the new BlackBerrys, the company is focused on markets that embraced its earlier phone models. The BlackBerry Z10 rolls out in the United Arab Emirates and France next week, after making its debut in Canada this week and the U.K. last week.

The keypad device is not expected to debut until at least April.

BlackBerry’s executive team also underwent some changes on Thursday.

The company announced that it is adding two veterans of the telecom industry to its board of directors — a retired Verizon senior executive and a former Sony Ericsson Mobile CEO.

BlackBerry announced from its head office in Waterloo, Ont., that its board will add Richard Lynch, a retired executive vice-president of Verizon Communications. The board has also added Bert Nordberg, former chief executive officer of Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications.

Verizon has one of the biggest mobile networks in the United States and sells a variety of devices from BlackBerry and its competitors while Sony Ericsson is a rival smartphone maker owned by Tokyo-based Sony Corp.

BlackBerry also secured a committment from the Nova Scotia government for $10 million over five years to keep at least 400 jobs at its operations in the province which include a customer service centre.

Premier Darrell Dexter said that without the investment, the company could have moved the work elsewhere, draining high-paying jobs from the province.