Research In Motion will likely delay its next-generation QNX-powered "superphones" into the second half of 2012, suggests a new analyst report. If that proves accurate, it means the Canadian company will need to rely on its BlackBerry OS for an extended period of time.
That could also prove problematic for RIM, whose latest BlackBerry devices-announced Aug. 3, and running the new BlackBerry 7 OS-are widely considered something of a technology placeholder, meant to slow the company's market-share decline until those as-yet-unrevealed "superphones" finally arrive to level the playing field against Apple's iPhone and ever-more-sophisticated Google Android smartphones.
But that plan might not succeed.
"We cut our estimates below consensus based on checks that handset shipments will be worse than expected in the Nov. Q despite the sell-in of the new OS 7 handsets," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in an Aug. 4 note to investors. "We continue to believe the story hinges on QNX, which we believe will be delayed to [the second half of 2012] vs. guidance of early CY12."
RIM's new devices running BlackBerry 7 OS include the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860. The new operating system offers faster browsing, smoother navigation, voice-activated universal search and preinstalled applications such as the enhanced BlackBerry Messenger 6.
"Channel checks indicate that in spite of RIM's best efforts, QNX handsets are still likely to arrive in [the second half of 2012]," he added. "It now appears the Playbook will not be able to run ported Android apps until late fall, later than consensus expected. We believe this is a symptom of resources being diverted from QNX to OS 7."
RIM's BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablet runs a variant of QNX, but it remains to be seen how the company will modify that operating system for its handset debut.
Meanwhile, RIM has watched its market share steadily degrade over the past several quarters. Recent data from Nielsen suggested that Android held 39 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in June, followed by Apple's iPhone with 28 percent and RIM with 20 percent. That's roughly in keeping with earlier data presented by comScore, which placed Android at 38.1 percent, Apple at 26.6 percent and RIM at 24.7 percent.
"RIM needs to focus on how to show why their enterprise-class capabilities are the way to go," Ray Wang, principal analyst of the Constellation Research Group, wrote in a July 28 email to eWEEK. The key to future success will be figuring out "how they can take a consumer innovation and make it enterprise class ... safe, secure, simple, sexy, sustainable, scalable."