Research In Motion and its BlackBerry franchise face softening interest in its current handsets, according to a new analyst report. That puts more pressure on BlackBerry 10, its next-generation mobile platform, to succeed in the marketplace.
We believe RIMs low-end handset sales trends have continued to deteriorate in North America, Latin America and Europe, Peter Misek an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a co-authored March 1 research note. In particular, sales in Europe decreased significantly towards the end of the quarter. We believe this is very negative as sales outside of the U.S. had typically been more resilient. However, his checks indicated that BlackBerry sales in Asia remained okay.
Meanwhile, Misek also felt that BlackBerrys higher-end devices face a continuing challenge from the iPhone and Android. We believe the iPhone 5 launch (we expect end of Q2/Q3) ahead of the BB10 launch (we expect Sep) will be particularly troubling, he wrote. The BB10 will also have to compete head-to-head in H2 with Microsoft/Nokia as the Windows 8 platform attempts to become the #3 player.
RIM has been encouraging third-party developers to build apps for its PlayBook, which relies on the same QNX code base as BlackBerry 10; in theory, apps built for the tablet will port over to the smartphone platform with relatively little fuss. But RIM will need much more than a robust apps ecosystem if it wants BlackBerry 10 to successfully push back against Apples iPhone, Google Android, and Windows Phone.
A Feb. 13 posting on the CrackBerry blog suggested that BlackBerry 10 will feature home-screen widgets reminiscent of Windows Phones Live Tiles, a tray with smart icons capable of displaying information, a universal inbox and perhaps video chat.
RIM fully intends to double down on BlackBerry 10. Our checks indicate RIM is likely to move away from a proposal to the Board that RIM license BB10 to Samsung and launch a new BBM, email, and social networking app for iOS/Android for a monthly fee, Misek wrote in a Febuary research note. The new plan, he added, will center on RIM competing against Apple, Android and Windows ecosystems with their own integrated hardware/software/services ecosystem.
For some time, RIM executives have touted BlackBerry 10 as a game-changer. If the operating system doesnt succeed, however, RIM will likely need to ask some very hard questions about its own future.