Hundreds of British staff at BlackBerry's European headquarters in Slough are to lose their jobs after the smartphone maker said it would slash 4,500 staff worldwide in a desperate attempt to cut costs.
Executives at BlackBerry, which is based in Canada, are trying to rescue the company after announcing this weekend that it expects to make a loss of nearly $1bn (£624m) in just three months.
Dubbed "CrackBerry" for its addictive nature after its 1999 launch and still the favoured device of the US President, Barack Obama, the smartphone has suffered a spectacular decline in fortune since late 2010. The BlackBerry has been out-muscled by hugely popular touchscreen phones such as the iPhone and those running Google's Android software, and the company has been put up for sale.
BlackBerry said it would cut 40 per cent of its worldwide workforce, having already axed 5,000 jobs last year. According to the company's last available British accounts, more than 1,000 people work for BlackBerry in the UK, mainly based in the Berkshire HQ with other offices in Birmingham, Cambridgeshire and Glasgow.
The proportion of job losses is expected to be fairly evenly distributed around BlackBerry's more than 100 global offices, which suggests that there could be around 400 redundancies in Britain.
BlackBerry's losses have largely been attributed to poor sales of its latest device, the Z10 smartphone, which was launched in January after delays. This was BlackBerry's first fully touchscreen phone, but barely a third of the 6.8m that have been manufactured have been shipped out, as many customers stuck with earlier models and their easy-to-use keyboards.
Ben Wood, chief of research at the industry analysts CCS Insight, said: "The UK has been a golden island for BlackBerry, winning over a lot of teenagers in the early days, but that's faded away. There is undoubtedly a risk to a substantial number of staff in Britain – it could affect several hundred people."
BlackBerry UK's grey, three-storey office block off the M4 in Slough was at the centre of a worldwide meltdown of its phones two years ago, when the company was called Research in Motion. An outage at the site's computer data centre left customers on five continents without access to email for days.
The news of such heavy job losses comes ahead of this week's UK launch of its latest generation of smartphone, the Z30, which has a large, five-inch screen.
A BlackBerry UK spokesman said: "We cannot break out the specific details at this time, but the reductions will impact our global workforce."