Research in Motion: A Year Of Maladies And Why QNX Is A Fad

2011 is a year that BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) will want to forget in a hurry. During the past year, it faced a horde of obstacles ranging from declining market share to a network outage, leaving its shareholders poorer by some 76%. The stock spiked a few days ago on the back of some positive news, but RIM investors cannot forget the torment they have experienced throughout the year.

However, RIM thinks it can bounce back to its earlier glory through its QNX platform (the release of which has again been delayed) and provide investors relief in the New Year. But is it so? Let's take a look.

Fall from grace
There was a time when RIM ruled the roost in the smartphone market. However, now it is nothing more than a pawn in the smartphone wars and its market share has been reduced to a puny 10% from the mighty 44% it commanded just two years back. One may say that the rise of snazzy platforms such as the Google Android and the Apple iOS has contributed to its downfall, but I believe RIM is itself to blame.

Everything needs to change with time, but RIM did not. When other companies presented RIM's once-famous emailing and messaging services in a better and more graphic manner than RIM's dour operating system, consumers just jumped at the opportunity and left their BlackBerrys in the drawer. Add to all this a global network outage that lasted for three days and we see consumer confidence taking a dive.

The QNX myth
RIM has long been harping upon its "mythical" QNX platform, acquired from Harman International and expected to be its messiah. But continuous delays in the launch of the QNX phones have led RIM into a deeper mire. The company has now scheduled a late 2012 release, which has further dented investor confidence. Also, low sales of its Playbook, which is based on the QNX platform, suggest that the platform won't able to save RIM from the blushes anyway.

Playbook's no fun
RIM launched the BlackBerry Playbook tablet amid huge fanfare. But here again it lost the race to Apple and saw the foray run out of steam. The company's Playbook shipments fell 60% to 200,000 units in the second quarter this year, which again drives home the point that the QNX platform hasn't been a hit and one shouldn't expect it to bail RIM out of trouble.

Obsolete technology?
If you place an Android phone next to a BlackBerry, you would immediately know where RIM has gone wrong. The company thinks the QNX platform will stem its fall, but that would have been possible only if it had been released a couple of years back, when Android was in its nascent stage. Even if RIM sticks to its current schedule of releasing the QNX phones, there is a high possibility of them being seen as obsolete compared to the Android and iOS platforms, which will have evolved another generation by then.

The Foolish takeaway
All has gone wrong for RIM this year. The company cut down on its shipments in the holiday season and has further delayed its supposedly face-saving QNX venture. I don't see the company doing any better in the New Year, either. The world will be waiting for the release of the much-vaunted QNX, but if the above discussion holds true, RIM is a sinking ship and one shouldn't go near it.

To keep track of how Research In Motion struggles through 2012, add it to your Watchlist by clicking here.

Fool contributor Harsh Chauhan owns none of the stocks mentioned in the article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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