Research In Motion has already told analysts about weaker BlackBerry sales for the quarter. That sets the stage for a potentially negative earnings report later today.
Research In Motion will offer its quarterly earnings in a
call scheduled after the market closes July
16. RIM executives' comments during that call will be dissected by analysts for
any possible clues about how the embattled BlackBerry maker plans to revive its
fortunes in the smartphone space. But already, those analysts don't seem
terribly optimistic about the company's prospects.
"We believe RIM has now squandered nearly every opportunity
and competitive advantage it enjoyed through ineffective R&D resource
management, delayed product launches and misreads of the competitive
environment," Morgan Stanley's Ehud Gelblum wrote in a note to clients, according
to a July 16 Reuters report.
Many of RIM's current troubles stem from reported delays in
new BlackBerry smartphones reaching market, along with the company's own
admission that it expects to sell 1 million fewer BlackBerry units this
RIM is planning a set of "superphones" based on its QNX
operating system, which will most likely make their debut in the second half of
2012. Until those devices reach store shelves, the company will rely on the
BlackBerry OS 7, paired with new BlackBerry devices like the Bold 9900 and
9930, to retain its core audience. However, analysts like Jefferies & Co's
Peter Misek believe the latest Bold won't arrive until later in 2011, which
would likely put it head-to-head against Apple's next iPhone and the newest
generation of high-end Android devices.
The Bold 9900, unveiled during the
BlackBerry World conference in May,
features a touchscreen display married to a physical QWERTY keyboard. While
keeping with RIM's design aesthetic, the device nonetheless disappointed
analysts and mobile experts who expected the company to attempt something
radical. Meanwhile, RIM's competition is getting fiercer.
"Apple's iMessage in iOS 5 makes [Blackberry Messenger] less
of a differentiator and other iCloud services make it tougher to close the user
experience gap," Gleacher & Co. Stephen Patel wrote in a June 9 research
note. "In addition, we think AT&T will push Windows Phone more strongly this
year, potentially at the expense of BlackBerry marketing."
RIM executives will almost certainly offer guidance for
full-year 2011 during the earnings call, along with product-launch estimates.
That could help clarify RIM's strategy for the next six months, but it also
leaves the company vulnerable to additional pundit criticism that it's not
doing enough to counter threats to its long-running smartphone brand.
One potential bright spot is RIM's PlayBook tablet. Despite lukewarm
reviews upon release, the device is reportedly a respectable seller. If actual
numbers prove better than expected, it could give a positive topspin to an
otherwise dour RIM story. But that's a big "if"-especially when RIM is also
wrestling with a BlackBerry line that's starting to look positively antiquated
in comparison to its rivals.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.