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Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) has been spiraling out of control for some time now. The company's stock is down more than 48% so far this year. But can the bruised BlackBerry maker turn things around during the second half of 2012? A comeback would require RIM to have learned from its previous mistakes. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.
Now that we're midway through fiscal 2012, let's look at where the company has been and where it's headed in the remainder of the year. One thing is clear -- a successful about-face is no longer a realistic outcome for RIM. At this point it's a matter of whether the BlackBerry maker can maintain any market share at all in the mobile space.
RIM didn't get itself in this position overnight. A string of bad decisions from top management crippled initial efforts to save the business. While joint CEOs Jim Ballsillie and Mike Lazaridis finally resigned, it proved to be too little too late. Following their leaving, RIM's market share hit an all-time low of 15.2% in the three months ended in January.
In addition, the company spent the earlier part of this year ignoring competitors' advancements. In March, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) beat RIM on its home turf by selling more iPhones in Canada than RIM sold BlackBerrys. Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android system also continued to rob RIM of market share.
Once the leader in enterprise business, RIM failed to update its platform along with its rivals, and as a result more global businesses are now offering their employees alternatives to the company BlackBerry. Apple has benefited the most in this regard.
In an attempt to revive its floundering business, RIM tried its luck in the tablet market with the launch of its PlayBook device earlier this year. Sadly, the dirt cheap BlackBerry PlayBook proved that it takes more than competitive pricing to win the hearts in consumer electronics. Besides, I still don't understand how RIM thought enterprise-grade security on the device would be enough without native email, but I digress.
Another missed opportunity
Introducing an iPad challenger should have come naturally to RIM. Let's not forget that the company was once a leader in the mobile industry. However, it failed to execute at a critical stage in the game. Today, even software giant Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is making waves in the tablet space.
The recently unveiled Microsoft Surface isn't expected to hit the market until this winter -- yet it already promises to make a bigger splash than the BlackBerry PlayBook ever did. One of the reasons the Surface has a better chance of success than RIM's PlayBook ever did is Microsoft's growing ecosystem of content.
For a rival tablet to be a true iPad contender, it needs a rich media ecosystem. Apple has the App Store, while Android-powered devices rely on Google's online marketplace, Google Play. In fact, Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle Fire tablet owes a significant portion of its success to its growing media marketplace.
These days you can buy just about anything from Amazon's virtual store. Consumers can purchase e-books for reading on their Kindle Fire or stream movies and television shoes on the device. True, Amazon is still playing catch-up to Apple and Google in music and video downloads. But at least it's in the game -- and at this point that's more than RIM can claim.
With JPMorgan Chase and RBC Capital Markets now in its corner assessing the always infamous "strategic alternatives," perhaps RIM can muster a worthy alternative to its failed turnaround strategy. In the meantime, ongoing delays with its BlackBerry 10 operating system will continue to damage RIM's share price. The company may also face greater operating losses in upcoming quarters, despite management's decision to cut thousands of jobs.
Going forward, RIM's new chief executive, Thorsten Heins, plans to reduce the number of BlackBerry products in the company's portfolio. According to the Financial Times, "RIM plans to shrink its external manufacturing partners from 10 production sites to three by the end of the year." The downsizing is one of many efforts by management to counter declining BlackBerry sales.
In addition, if RIM ever gets its next-generation BlackBerry 10 platform off the ground, it hopes to license the new operating system. Potential licensing deals are a step in the right direction, although it's a step RIM should have taken a year ago.
While some analysts have speculated that a buyout is on the horizon, I doubt anyone will acquire RIM before a successful launch of its long-awaited BlackBerry 10. Heins said the company would spend the rest of 2012 focused on finishing software integrations for a 2013 launch of its BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
A better play for investors
Time is running out on RIM to sell itself at a significant premium. Yet despite RIM's troubles, the mobile industry is booming. Investors can take advantage of growth in this market by choosing companies that have lucrative expansion strategies in place, competitive product portfolios, and visionary leadership -- all qualities RIM currently lacks.
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