iPhone, Android Have RIM BlackBerry in a Vise

Research In Motion is floundering, according to its first-quarter fiscal results. Analysts blame poor execution and increased pressure from Apple's iPhone and Google Android handsets.

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) confirmed what many financial analysts expected June 16 when it reported lower-than-expected earnings for the first quarter as the company felt squeezed by Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android smartphones.

RIM reported earnings of $695 million on sales of $4.9 billion compared to financial analyst estimates of $5.15 billion in sales. RIM shipped 13.2 million phones. Shares for the company fell nearly 23 percent to $27.19 on the news in morning trading June 17.

While this shortfall wasn't a disaster in itself, RIM reneged on earlier promises that the BlackBerry phone and tablet maker would enjoy fiscal year 2012 earnings of $7.50 a share by nearly two dollars. The company now expects 2012 earnings of $5.25 to $6 per share.

This current second quarter, which ends in August, will showcase the continuing decline for RIM. The company is calling for sales of $4.2 billion to $4.8 billion.

"The shortfall in the United States is primarily related to the age of the BlackBerry portfolio," said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, who added that RIM would lay off employees to make the company more efficient.

ComScore said Android commands 36 percent market share, with Apple's iPhone grabbing 26 percent. RIM is at 23 percent and falling, the research claimed. RIM's handset decline is troubling analysts most of all.

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdry said RIM is "getting killed" by the iPhone in the premium smartphone sector and by cheap Android phones in Asia at the low-end. Android phones in China sell for less than $50 unsubsidized, Chowdry added.

Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek said that, thanks largely to the iPhone and Android handsets, the outlook is dim for RIM's forthcoming BlackBerry OS 7 handsets such as the Bold 9900, which may be delayed to September. Even when it arrives, Misek said OS 7 phones are "unlikely to receive much carrier or consumer support."

"While management is very bullish on OS 7, our carrier checks indicate a lukewarm response," Misek wrote June 17. "These devices get high marks as a messaging device, but as a high-end smartphones they do not match iOS or Android."

Analysts also expect the Bold 9900 will launch too close to the launch of a new iPhone, canceling out RIM's sales for the device, which has a touch screen and classic BlackBerry physical QWERTY keyboard.

Misek also said pricing pressure will increase, with carrier subscriptions for RIM phones at risk in the second half of the year. "We cut our estimates below the new guidance, retain our underperform rating, and lower our target to $24 from $35."

Not every analyst is down on RIM despite the fact that its BlackBerrys appear to be caught between iPhone and Android handsets.

Caris & Company's Robert Cihra said that while RIM has lost momentum to iPhone and Android, he still thinks there's enough room for RIM to carve out a niche within a cell phone market that comprises 1.6 billion devices. Even that optimism came with a caveat.

"However, following a full-blown void of new handsets year-to-date, after having already misread customer demands and competitive landscape, it appears RIM has now sunk into eroding mismanagement, having delayed even just its evolutionary Bold 9900 refresh multiple times and will start implementing new cost/headcount cuts," Cihra wrote in a June 17 note.

This, he added, should have a deleterious effect on RIM's forthcoming QNX-based super smartphones intended to give the iPhone and Android handsets stiff competition.

Industry tech analyst Jack Gold said he sees lots or pressure on BlackBerry phones in enterprise customers looking at iPhone or Android alternatives.

"[RIM has] to get the new devices out, and they have to hit a home run to stem the defections," Gold told eWEEK June 17. "The new phones should still be out end of quarter, so by end of year we'll be able to see if people like the new Bolds and OS7."

However, its the QNX superphones RIM is expected to deliver in 2012 that is more important to the company. "That will be a huge release for them. Perhaps even make-or-break," Gold added.