Research In Motion, in a frantic fight to keep its BlackBerry sales strong in the face of fierce competition from Apple's iPhones and smartphones based on Google's Android operating system, announced strong third-quarter financial numbers Dec. 16, ahead of analyst expectations.
Fueled by such devices as the BlackBerry Torch and Curve, RIM reported record BlackBerry smartphone sales, revenues of $5.49 billion, and 5.1 million new BlackBerry subscriber accounts.
RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsilie said the numbers reflected the company's strong product lines and the anticipation around upcoming offerings, include its Playbook tablet, which is expected to hit the market in 2011.
"RIM's business continues to grow and diversify as BlackBerry adoption accelerates in markets around the world," Balsillie said in a statement. "With strong results and momentum from our recent product introductions, as well as growing excitement from our partners and customers around upcoming smartphone, tablet, software and services offerings, we are setting the stage for continuing success."
The quarterly revenues were a 19 percent jump over the second quarter, and a 40 percent increase over the same period in 2009. In addition, earnings per share were up 58 percent, and the record 14.2 million BlackBerry shipments were a 40 percent increase over the third quarter last year.
However, despite the strong numbers, RIM continues to find itself in tight competition with Apple and Android devices, which are strong in the consumer space and are gaining traction in the enterprise market, traditionally RIM's domain.
ITG Investment Research said in a report Dec. 13 that Android-running handsets-such as Motorola's Droid and Samsung's Fascinate Galaxy S-have overtaken BlackBerry smartphones as the top sellers on Verizon Wireless' network. In another turn, reports last month indicated that Apple was hiring away members of RIM's enterprise sales team in hopes of selling more iPhones and iPads into corporate accounts.
At the time, analyst Rob Enderle said RIM was going to continue to have difficulty hanging onto its strong enterprise market share.
"The corporate market is RIM's market, and Apple has been closing on the company steadily while RIM has shown little ability to really fight back," Enderle said in an interview. "RIM either needs to significantly up their game or plan to cede this market to Apple, Google and even Microsoft."
RIM executives don't sound like they're ready to cede anything to anyone. Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference in San Francisco Dec. 7, was asked about the enterprise threat posed by Apple and Google. He reportedly replied that "today, we have several car manufacturers out there. We're going to find the same thing with smartphones."
Both he and Balsillie, who was responding to a question during the Dec. 16 earnings conference call with analysts and journalists, pointed to the PlayBook as a key product going into 2011. Balsillie said he expected a move away from Apple's iPad.
"I think the PlayBook redefines what a tablet should do," Balsillie said, according to a transcript from the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think we've articulated some elements of it, and I think this idea of a proprietary SDK and unnecessary apps-though there's a huge role for apps-I think is going to shift in the market, and I think it's going to shift very, very quickly. And I think there's going to be a strong appetite for Web fidelity and tool familiarity."