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BlackBerry encouraged by early Z10 sales, CEO says

A Blackberry Z10 is displayed at a store in Toronto February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
A Blackberry Z10 is displayed at a store in Toronto February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

WATERLOO, Ontario (Reuters) - BlackBerry has gotten its new touchscreen mobile device on store shelves in more than 20 countries and is very encouraged by the traction that the smartphone is gaining, Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said on Thursday.

The company's Z10, the first in a line of smartphones powered by the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, is on sale in the UK, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, India, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, among other countries. Launches in other countries are coming soon, said Heins.

A U.S. launch is due later this month.

"The feedback is very encouraging," Heins said at the Communitech Tech Leadership Conference in the company's hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo. "What has been a real surprise for us is that BlackBerry 10 as a platform and product is attracting users that are currently on other platforms."

"We are just five weeks into this. We have just one product out in 21 countries, so it is early indications, but we are encouraged by what we see and hear from our carrier partners," he told an audience of leaders of local technology start-ups.

Heins declined to give figures on Z10 sales, as the company is in a quiet period ahead of the March 28 release of its fourth-quarter results.

He said the high-end Z10 had surpassed BlackBerry's expectations in emerging markets like India, where cheaper entry-level devices are typically popular.

"I was surprised when we launched in India how well the Z10, which is a high-end device, sold," said Heins. "We shipped into the channel product that we thought would have been good for at least five days and I got an emergency call from our manager in India, saying that they were sold out in two days,"

"Now we are scrambling to re-load that channel."

BlackBerry, a one-time smartphone pioneer, has bled market share to the likes of Apple's iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy line and other devices powered by Google Inc's market-leading Android operating system.

In a make-or-break move to regain market share and return to profit, BlackBerry introduced the new smartphone to much fanfare in January, and said it was abandoning its old name, Research In Motion, and renaming itself BlackBerry.

A more traditional BlackBerry with a physical keyboard will go on sale next month.

(Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Janet Guttsman and Steve Orlofsky)

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