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The bad news is pouring in for BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) . For the first quarter of fiscal 2012, revenue fell more than expected -- down 12% to $4.9 billion. That's up 16% from $4.2 billion in the same quarter of last year but down from $5.6 billion in the previous quarter.
The company made a net profit of $695 million in the three months ended May 28, down from $769 million in the same period last year. The revenue breakdown for the quarter was approximately 78% for hardware , 20% for service, and just 2% for software and other revenue. During the quarter, RIM shipped approximately 13.2 million BlackBerry handheld devices and approximately 500,000 BlackBerry Playbook tablets.
RIM warned in April that its profits would be low because of lower shipments of its BlackBerry phones. The company was at pains to point out that is its international revenue is on a high and grew 67% against last year, but that just raises the issue that if international sales are so high, then U.S. sales must be in the basement.
Dolby Laboratories (NYSE: DLB ) then caused more investor concern by filing a lawsuit, claiming RIM uses Dolby's audio-compression technologies in its smartphones and PlayBook tablets without proper licenses. There were simultaneous filings in the United States and Germany, as well as a request for an injunction to halt sales of BlackBerry phones and the PlayBook.
In March, RIM's marketing boss, Keith Pardy, quit over the direction of the PlayBook tablet. Everyone has been underwhelmed by the lack of software applications, and despite the announcement of 500,000 units shipped during the second quarter, the company didn't release any sales figures, leaving some analysts unsure just how well the tablet is performing.
On Thursday, RIM COO Don Morrison announced he, too, is leaving the company, though his departure is for medical reasons. That's why RIM, despite having two other COOs on staff, is bringing in Larry Conlee, a former RIM exec, to fill in as a special advisor.
RIM shares fell sharply in after-hours trading Thursday and had to be suspended briefly. On Friday, shares slid even deeper by midday, weighing down the rest of the tech sector that had gotten an initial early boost from a broad market upswing. U.S. shares plunged more than 21% to $27.74 -- the stock's lowest level in nearly five years.
"We see the next few quarters as a potentially tough period for RIM characterized by further product delays," said Rod Hall of JPMorgan Chase in a note to investors. Hall suggested a neutral rating on RIM stock.
Canada's largest business newspaper, the Globe and Mail, weighed in with its own gloom over RIM and its future with Canadian tech.
For years, BlackBerry-maker RIM has been the hub of Canada's technology universe, creating jobs, innovation and partnerships with wireless and software companies. RIM has a heavy influence on the economy of the Kitchener-Waterloo area in Ontario, where it is a major employer, innovator and charitable force. The current slowdown has huge implications for the company and its 17,500 employees, as well as its many shareholders, both personal and institutional.
Co-CEO Jim Balsillie acknowledged the stakes in a conference call Thursday. "The reduction of our head count is an incredibly difficult decision, and Mike [founder Mike Laziridis] and I appreciate the impact of this on our employees, their families and the community."
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Waterloo's two universities could also be hit: Waterloo University and Wilfrid Laurier University gain huge academic and recruiting benefits from the RIM factor. Wilfrid Laurier, for example, is in the process of launching an executive master's degree in technology management, taking the idea from a program it was already developing for rising RIM managers.
Friday morning, Reuters reported even more worrying information: Some of the company's largest shareholders may be heading for the exits. According to Bloomberg, one of RIM's biggest investors, Jarisloswky Fraser, has already cut its stake in half. "We are on the way out," Stephen Jarislowsky, chairman of Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd., told Bloomberg. Jarislowsky's Montreal-based investment company is RIM's sixth largest shareholder; Bloomberg reports that it held 10.2 million shares as of March 30.
"They are resting on their laurels," Bloomberg quoted Jarislowsky as saying. "Steve Jobs is a much better marketer than RIM," he added, referring to Apple's CEO.
Reuters says another investor is giving RIM six months to get its business in order. "I think in the next six months we'll have a much better idea of where we stand," said the head of a fund with a major stake. "They've laid out a business strategy and we're measuring their ability to execute."
BSN* and the tech world have been underwhelmed by the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. RIM appears to have a failed understanding of the tablet competition and the expectations of buyers. Limiting the full functionality of the tablet to owners of select BlackBerry phones is something even Apple didn't dare to do with the iPad. The BlackBerry smartphone has been losing market share in the corporate arenas to both the iPhone and the 300-plus Google Android devices. Will RIM join Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and have Microsoft offering a Windows 8 helping hand?
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