Research In Motion's recently introduced tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and a BlackBerry Storm 3 smartphone could mean good things for the smartphone maker during its next two fiscal quarters, Jefferies & Co. analysts reported Oct. 12, cautiously adding that RIM is still "not out of the woods yet."
While RIM has continued to report strong earnings-announcing revenue of $4.62 billion and year-over-year growth of 31 percent during its fiscal 2011 second quarter-it has increasingly relied on business from international markets, as U.S. consumers show a growing interest in Android-running smartphones and the Apple iPhone. The arrival of the PlayBook, however, and a Storm 3-a device that's variously been rumored to be in the works and canceled by RIM-could help boost shipment estimates for its quarters ending in November and February to higher than expected levels, the Jefferies analysts reported.
"The next couple of quarters may be better than we initially thought," states the research note, "due to the launch of a non-haptic touch Storm 3 (Nov) and PlayBook (late Feb/early Mar). But we maintain our Hold rating as we wait for evidence of not just sell-in strength, but sell-through demand and pull."
The note acknowledges the recent "chatter of cancellation." Tech site BlackBerry Leaks, citing an unnamed application developer, reported Oct. 7 that RIM had canceled its planned refresh of the Storm 2, also known as the 9570.
"Regrettably, RIM has decided not to pursue this device further and has ended the [application submission] program," the site reported, quoting a letter reportedly received by the developer. The note goes on to say the developer's work can still be leveraged, "as BlackBerry 6 will be making its way to more Verizon products in the near future, including the BlackBerry Bold 9650 and the BlackBerry Curve 9330."
The Jefferies analysts attribute the "confusion" around cancellation of the device to the existence of three Storm 3 SKUs-a model with haptic touch (the sensation of typing on a keyboard) that the note says has been canceled; a non-haptic touch version "with similar thickness, more memory, and [BlackBerry 6]" that's likely to come out by the end of November; and a device with a "new iPhone-like form factor, but slimmer," which, like the PlayBook, may not run BlackBerry 6 but software from QNX.
The iPhone-like device is said to be scheduled for the first half of 2011.
The note adds that a PlayBook 2-launching in two sizes and including both 3G and 4G connectivity-is scheduled for the second half of 2011.
As a RIM executive at the BlackBerry Developer Conference in San Francisco already shared, the full RIM portfolio will eventually be transitioned to the QNX platform-a move the Jefferies analysts report will happen by the second half of 2011.
The move to the open-source QNX will offer RIM the advantage of growing the number of applications in its app store-an area where it has fallen far behind competitors Apple and Google. While the BlackBerry App World features fewer than 10,000 apps, Google's Android Market is nearing 100,000 and the Apple App store has approximately 250,000.
A goal for RIM with QNX, the Jefferies note confirms, "is to port a large portion of the Android App Market onto QNX or to virtualize it."
A spokesperson for RIM offered no comment on whether a Storm 3 is in fact in the works.