RIM BlackBerry World Showing Strikes Sour Note with Analysts

Research In Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis waxed optimistic about the PlayBook and forthcoming BlackBerry smartphones, but financial analysts found the BlackBerry World content lacking.

ORLANDO, Fla.-Research In Motion co-CEO Mike Lazaridis spent a good portion of his RIM Capital Markets Day presentation boasting about the features of the new BlackBerry PlayBook, which he also apologized for launching late as Apple's iPad seized and defined the market.

Lazaridis was upbeat, bullish and occasionally defensive about the PlayBook and other products RIM unveiled here at the BlackBerry World developer's conference May 2. However, he did little to assuage financial analysts' ongoing concerns about RIM's hemorrhaging mobile market share.

Lazaridis, who presented for financial analysts for Capital Markets Day but will present a live keynote May 3, employed the PlayBook's HDMI output to show presentation slides. His point was to illustrate the 7-inch slate's viability as a presentation tool for corporate meetings.

While Lazaridis touted several other features of the PlayBook, including its tight integration with Adobe's Flash multimedia software and Web browsing, he also apologized for being tardy on delivering the tablet and acknowledged RIM could have done things differently.

"If you want an apology for being late on some of our products, I can give that to you, but it's not because we weren't working hard," he said. "It's because we wanted to bring the best possible product to market."

An apology was not what financial analysts came for. With the PlayBook launched two weeks ago, analysts were expecting a new smartphone lineup based on BlackBerry 7 OS and some guidance into RIM's transition to build so-called superphones based on the QNX operating system used in the PlayBook.

Instead, RIM unveiled the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 handsets, which are the phone maker's thinnest BlackBerry handsets ever and employ 2.8-inch touch screens with a QWERTY keyboard. The smartphones, which feature HPSA+ support, a 5-megapixel camera, video-chatting and near field communications, run the new BlackBerry 7 OS.

However, most BlackBerry World attendees viewed the hardware and upgrades as incremental rather than revolutionary.

Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek said he had been hoping to see three to six BlackBerry OS 7 smartphones in RIM's pipeline, as well as insight into the QNX smartphone transition. Lazaridis said RIM intends to merge the BlackBerry and QNX platforms before introducing the QNX smartphones in 2012.

"There were no clear indications of when QNX would finally arrive, and we believe the new moniker signals a longer-than-expected commitment to OS 7 before transitioning to a QNX-based platform," Misek wrote in a research note May 3.

He expects further product launch announcements based on BlackBerry 7 OS this summer.

Susquehanna Financial Research analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro said RIM's announcements did little to ease investors' concerns regarding the company's ability to recover mobile phone market share in the United States, where NPD said it lost 5 percentage points last quarter to Apple's iPhone and Google Android smartphones.

Fidacaro said RIM's expectations appear aggressive for devices based on BlackBerry 7 OS and that QNX smartphones will likely launch closer to mid-2012 versus the company's early 2012 target.

Interestingly, RIM's best received news wasn't smartphone hardware or OS software, but its work in mobile device management software for enterprises.

The company acquired Ubitexx to manage Android and Apple iOS devices as well as BlackBerry gadgets, and launched BlackBerry Balance to securely zone personal and professional content on one BlackBerry smartphone.