BlackBerry PlayBook Updates Coming, Following RIM's Weak Earnings Report

RIM claimed that major PlayBook updates were coming, along with QNX smartphone prototypes, following an announcement of weak corporate earnings.

Research In Motion reported revenues of $4.2 billion for the second quarter of fiscal 2012, a 15 percent decline from the $4.9 billion it earned during the previous quarter. The company shipped some 10.6 million BlackBerry smartphones and around 200,000 BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablets during that period.

RIM's aging BlackBerry portfolio continued to drag on the company's overall financials. "Overall unit shipments in the quarter were slightly below our forecast due to lower than expected demand for older models," Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, wrote in a Sept. 15 statement ahead of the company's earnings call.

RIM is betting that its upcoming generation of QNX-powered "superphones" will allow it to reclaim the initiative in the ultra-competitive smartphone space, where it faces determined rivals such as Apple's iPhone and a growing collection of Google Android devices from various manufacturers. A version of the QNX operating system currently powers the company's PlayBook tablet.

A recent report from Bloomberg suggested that both those QNX superphones and the PlayBook will eventually support Android applications. Until its next-generation handhelds hit the market, though, RIM is depending on a new set of BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 7 OS, which executives insist have enough collective momentum to carry the company though the launch of its QNX devices.

BlackBerry 7 OS offers faster browsing, smoother navigation, voice-activated universal search, and preinstalled applications. The new devices included the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860, with a 3.7-inch touch-screen and no physical QWERTY keyboard; an ultra-thin update of the Bold; the BlackBerry Torch 9810, an update of the sliding-keyboard Torch; and BlackBerry Curves (the 9350, 9360, and 9370).

RIM's quarterly revenues also represented a 10-percent decline from the year-ago quarter, when it made $4.6 billion. BlackBerry's subscriber base grew around 40 percent year-over-year, to more than 70 million users.

"We see the next two quarters as lame duck quarters ahead of QNX and expect full-year guidance to be lowered again," Peter Misek, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a Sept. 15 research note.

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told media and analysts on the company's Sept. 15 earnings call that sales of the PlayBook were "below where we'd like it to be." However, in keeping with his position as co-chief executive, he suggested that the tablet would "ultimately be successful in a market that it's in its infancy."

RIM is apparently planning what he termed a "major software release" for the PlayBook, set for release at an unspecified date after October's BlackBerry DevCon conference, which will include features such as built-in native email.

He also promised that QNX smartphone prototypes would arrive in the "not-so-distant future."

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