RIM Faces Earnings Report, Analyst Negativity

Research In Motion has already told analysts about weaker BlackBerry sales for the quarter. That sets the stage for a potentially negative earnings report later today.

Research In Motion will offer its quarterly earnings in a call scheduled after the market closes July 16. RIM executives' comments during that call will be dissected by analysts for any possible clues about how the embattled BlackBerry maker plans to revive its fortunes in the smartphone space. But already, those analysts don't seem terribly optimistic about the company's prospects.

"We believe RIM has now squandered nearly every opportunity and competitive advantage it enjoyed through ineffective R&D resource management, delayed product launches and misreads of the competitive environment," Morgan Stanley's Ehud Gelblum wrote in a note to clients, according to a July 16 Reuters report.


Many of RIM's current troubles stem from reported delays in new BlackBerry smartphones reaching market, along with the company's own admission that it expects to sell 1 million fewer BlackBerry units this quarter.

RIM is planning a set of "superphones" based on its QNX operating system, which will most likely make their debut in the second half of 2012. Until those devices reach store shelves, the company will rely on the BlackBerry OS 7, paired with new BlackBerry devices like the Bold 9900 and 9930, to retain its core audience. However, analysts like Jefferies & Co's Peter Misek believe the latest Bold won't arrive until later in 2011, which would likely put it head-to-head against Apple's next iPhone and the newest generation of high-end Android devices.

The Bold 9900, unveiled during the BlackBerry World conference in May, features a touchscreen display married to a physical QWERTY keyboard. While keeping with RIM's design aesthetic, the device nonetheless disappointed analysts and mobile experts who expected the company to attempt something radical. Meanwhile, RIM's competition is getting fiercer.

"Apple's iMessage in iOS 5 makes [Blackberry Messenger] less of a differentiator and other iCloud services make it tougher to close the user experience gap," Gleacher & Co. Stephen Patel wrote in a June 9 research note. "In addition, we think AT&T will push Windows Phone more strongly this year, potentially at the expense of BlackBerry marketing."

RIM executives will almost certainly offer guidance for full-year 2011 during the earnings call, along with product-launch estimates. That could help clarify RIM's strategy for the next six months, but it also leaves the company vulnerable to additional pundit criticism that it's not doing enough to counter threats to its long-running smartphone brand.

One potential bright spot is RIM's PlayBook tablet. Despite lukewarm reviews upon release, the device is reportedly a respectable seller. If actual numbers prove better than expected, it could give a positive topspin to an otherwise dour RIM story. But that's a big "if"-especially when RIM is also wrestling with a BlackBerry line that's starting to look positively antiquated in comparison to its rivals.