BlackBerry says a long-time partner placed the order, its largest-ever purchase.
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BlackBerry dropped a stunner late Wednesday when it announced that one of its "established partners" ordered 1 million BlackBerry 10 smartphones, with shipments starting immediately. According to BlackBerry, this is the largest single order in the company's history.
BlackBerry did not name the company that placed the order. Neither did BlackBerry specify if the order was for the Z10 smartphone, the Q10 smartphone or a mix of both.
"An order for one million devices is a tremendous vote of confidence in BlackBerry 10," said Rick Costanzo, BlackBerry EVP for global sales. "Consumers are ready for a new user experience, and BlackBerry 10 delivers. With strong partner support, coupled with this truly re-invented new platform, we have a powerful recipe for success."
Very few companies -- or even governments -- have more than 1 million employees. According to the BBC's ranking of the top firms in 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense is the single largest employer in the world with 3.2 million. It is followed by the People's Liberation Army with 2.3 million, Walmart with 2.1 million, McDonald's (including franchisees) with 1.9 million, and the U.K.'s National Health Service with 1.7 million. The firms making up the bottom half of the top 10 employers are based in China and India.
It is unlikely that any of these entities are responsible for purchasing 1 million BlackBerry smartphones. Instead, the huge order probably rests with one of BlackBerry's wireless network operator partners.
For example, AT&T will begin selling the BlackBerry Z10 March 22. It needs to get those devices flashed and shipped to stores in the next eight days, so BlackBerry is already pushing those devices out the door. AT&T has about 100 million customers in the U.S. It's not unreasonable for AT&T to think that perhaps 1% of its customer base will be interested in buying a BlackBerry, is it?
The same can be assumed of Verizon Wireless. Verizon will begin selling the Z10 on March 28. It has close to 110 million customers. Again, it's not unreasonable to believe that Verizon is confident enough in BB10 that 1% of its customers will choose the Z10. (This really makes you wonder how many iPhones or Galaxy S smartphones these carriers order ahead of their respective launches, doesn't it?)
Whichever company or entity BlackBerry sold 1 million devices to, it is a win for the embattled smartphone maker.
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