BlackBerry smartphone maker Research In Motion
The story so far
I think Research In Motion's woes have only just begun. As competition from other smartphone makers intensifies, RIM has witnessed a constant decline in its market share. According to researcher Kantar, U.S. market share plummeted all the way down to 10.5% in March this year compared to 32.5% in June 2010. That's a steep departure from comScore estimates that place RIM's share of U.S. smartphone subscribers at 27.1% in the first quarter. However, the trend from all researchers is one of rapidly declining market share.
That news is making its way to the bottom line -- fast. Last week, the company said it now sees first-quarter earnings of $1.30 to $1.37 per share, well below its initial forecast of $1.47 to $1.55. Even as the pressure on RIM mounts, rivals are not letting up on the battle for market share.
The smartphone market is rapidly growing, and players such as Apple
The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet was launched with QNX operating system last month, and this is the same operating system that RIM plans to include in the smartphones that it will unveil next year. But even with improved technologies aimed at better competing with the iPhone and Android models, the current playing field for RIM does not really look conducive to its optimistic future plans.
A series of new BlackBerry smartphones that are going to hit the market are being touted as "super phones" by the company. Plans of releasing these phones armed with the QNX operating system have been blowing about in the wind for a long time. However, the revamped Bold lineup Research In Motion unveiled will lean on BlackBerry OS 7, the next iteration of RIM's operating system, which has been derided for not keeping up with the slick user interfaces and software found on Apple and Android phones.
With the PlayBook, RIM hit the massively popular and rapidly growing tablet PC market. The reviews have been mixed, but its release is important because it is RIM's most direct attempt at creating a new interface comparable to both the iPhone and Android.
In the end, BlackBerry users are rapidly shifting to other smartphones instead of waiting for the better "super phones" to hit shelves. Remaining BlackBerry users are often turning to lower-priced consumer-oriented phones, which pressures phone selling prices and company margins.
Until the company can complete its transition to new QNX-based "super phones," RIM will continue fighting against changing customer loyalty in coming quarters in order to meet the full-year forecast. RIM still believes it can achieve earnings per share of $7.50 this year.
While all that is good news for people who are waiting for RIM to do well, there is no guarantee this move will help RIM's cause. The $7.50 per share earnings is a long way away. If you're a RIM investor, the company might be starting to look like a strong value play, but there's little to stem the Android assault in coming months. And as RIM keeps seeing delays on revamped products, the smartphone market keeps drifting away from the company.
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