AT&T could sell BlackBerry Z10 on March 15

An early AT&T launch of BlackBerry's touch-screen phone shows more signs of struggle.

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins introduces the Z10 and Q10 (right).
Sarah Tew/CNET

New reports suggest that AT&T will be the first U.S. carrier out of the gate with the BlackBerry Z10 on March 15. If they pan out, then it reveals BlackBerry's true weakness despite the hype of BB10.

Originally reported by N4BB and echoed by mobile news sites Phone Arena and BlackBerryOS, AT&T apparently has moved up its plans to push the Z10 out to the American public. If sources close to N4B can be trusted, then BlackBerry's most advanced handset could hit the street the day after the Samsung Galaxy S4's big unveiling.

That can't be good news for the rather unfortunate company formerly known as RIM. Any phone launched directly in the wake of Samsung's Galaxy S4 shindig -- let alone the next day -- is going to be completely swamped in terms of news coverage. Sure, it's no secret that the smartphone market is terribly cutthroat; up there with, say, prohibition bootlegging, and much more profitable. Still, this puts BlackBerry in a particularly tight spot.

I also can't stress enough how critical the Z10 and upcoming Q10, both running BlackBerry's revamped BB10 software, are to the future of the company. Having numerous wireless providers mess with the program and blunt the effect of a unified, Apple-style launch date (now a tactic of Samsung as well) is the last thing BlackBerry needs.

I suppose if BlackBerry had enough clout in the form of customer demand and product loyalty then it could intimidate all the big, bad American carriers into staying in line. Essentially by making an offer to U.S wireless providers that they can't refuse, even though they might want to, down to their very core. To do some serious arm-twisting on this level though, BlackBerry needs products customers can't live without. Sadly, that's not yet the case, judging by what now looks like a staggered Z10 rollout; first AT&T, then T-Mobile and Verizon following at a later date.

Why are carriers so resistant to a single launch date for one device across multiple networks? In a word, exclusivity, or more precisely, the lack of it. U.S. cellular companies are desperate for a way to stand out from the competition, and they use any means necessary to do this, such as exclusively branded handsets, bloatware, and extra services. Just think of the Droid DNA and you get the picture.

While that deal was sweet for Verizon, it didn't help HTC as much as it could have. Imagine if the DNA came to all four major U.S. carriers. HTC would probably be making bank instead of posting such low earnings recently.

This cellular fragmentation, in terms of circumventing a single U.S. Z10 ship date, is likely the first of many snafus in the eventual and unavoidable downfall of BlackBerry. It demonstrates just how weak the BlackBerry bargaining position really is.

Now playing: Watch this: Unboxing the BlackBerry Z10