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Blackberry targets emerging markets with cut-price handset

Z3 launched by Blackberry to keep a foothold in emerging countries

BlackBerry

BlackBerry has launched a low-cost touchscreen device in Jakarta, the Z3, as the embattled smartphone maker looks to revive sales in emerging markets like Indonesia where its once-fervent following has shriveled.

The handset, unveiled at a glitzy launch event in the Indonesian capital on Tuesday, is the first in a line of devices being made with FIH Mobile Ltd, a unit of the giant Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group best known for assembling gadgets like iPhones and iPads for Apple.

The success of the handset retailing for less than $200 (118) could well decide the outcome of both BlackBerry's tie-up with the contract manufacturing giant and its own future in smartphones. The Z3 Jakarta Edition will hit store shelves on May 15.

"If this device allows them to grow again, even if it's just small, steady growth, that's a success in itself. That says there is still room for BlackBerry in Indonesia," said Ryan Lai, market analyst at consultancy IDC.

The Z3 is the first phone to be launched by BlackBerry since new Chief Executive John Chen took the helm late last year. It's initially being launched in Indonesia, but will be gradually introduced in other markets as well.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry hopes that the device and others to follow will help it claw back some of the collapse in its market share, ceded to Apple's iPhone and Samsung's line of Galaxy devices powered by Google's Android operating system.

Just two years ago, the Canadian firm had a 40 percent share of the Indonesian market, shipping more than 600,000 handsets per quarter in a country once known as "BlackBerry Nation".

But the launch of the premium, high-priced BlackBerry 10 last year failed to attract buyers in a country where nearly 40 percent of the population live on about $2 (1.18) a day. The company's market share has slumped to just 4 percent, with shipments of around 100,000 devices per quarter, according to IDC.

"If the market doesn't receive this product well, then we definitely have some negative issues to deal with," Chen said at the launch at Jakarta's Ritz-Carlton hotel.

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