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Cratering RIM Needs a Revolution

By Anders Bylund – Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 9:09PM

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This head-in-the-sand approach isn't working.

If you looked at aftermarket prices on Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) just after its first-quarter results hit the wire last night, you'd think everything was fine. The stock wasn't moving.

But then you must have missed the announcement that trading of RIM shares was halted because of the pending release news. Once the spigot opened up again, RIM crashed hard. The stock dropped more than 15% in a matter of minutes and stayed there all night.

All told, RIM shares have taken a nearly 57% haircut from 52-week highs set in mid-February -- just before Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) launched the iPad 2 and RIM showed us just what its Playbook can (and can't) do. The glory days of 2008 with share prices on a steady $130 level now look like a taunting dream.

Don't cry for RIM?
This is where I would love to soothe ailing RIM investors and say that everything will be all right -- perhaps even call this a buy-in opportunity as Mr. Market overreacted again. But I can't. RIM deserved every ounce of this whipping, and management is showing no signs of understanding just how deep its troubles are.

In the first quarter, RIM missed its own revenue targets, with sales of $4.9 billion, and $1.32 of adjusted earnings came in at the low end of bottom-line guidance. Keep in mind that these ranges were "wider than normal" to account for supply chain disruptions from the Japanese disasters in March. The 500,000 Playbooks sold was actually better than most observers expected, so there's a bright spot for you, eh?

But that's where the good news ends. The company is cutting costs and jobs while being very careful to call it a "streamlining exercise" and not a "restructuring" or "reorganization." Yet the company slashed both sales and earnings guidance for the coming quarter and year to levels far below already-pessimistic analyst targets. You see, slipping product schedules will make RIM miss most of the crucial back-to-school season.

Perhaps most damning of all, co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are doing fine impressions of the common ostrich. "We're most of the way through the transitioning of our platform, and we believe we are taking the right steps to position RIM for the future," Balsillie said. But don't expect him to explain what he means by that: "RIM has taken a unique path, and why we do things the way we do may not be obvious from the outside."

The revolution is planned for 2012
Then there's the much-touted transition from the current BlackBerry software to the QNX-based stuff running the PlayBook now and all RIM products in the future. BlackBerry 7 will provide a modest upgrade while we wait for the major QNX overhaul, due in 2012. Why not faster? Because RIM doesn't want to abandon its BlackBerry developers, and there aren't any dual-core smartphone processors available yet.

Baloney. If you're moving to QNX eventually, the developers will have to follow anyhow. As for the dual-core excuse, firstly, I don't get why QNX couldn't run on a decent single-core ARM (Nasdaq: ARMH) processor like the Marvell (Nasdaq: MRVL) cores RIM used in the BlackBerry Torch. Anyway, not only have NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA), Marvell, and others produced the chips that Balsillie is lacking for quite some time, but the first dual-core handset was available back in February.

If LG could develop a dual-core phone that early, why couldn't RIM start its design early, too?

What it all boils down to
I'd love for RIM to become relevant to the mobile market again, because I think stronger competition drives everyone to do better. It's good for the total market, it propels faster growth as smartphones destroy the reigning feature phones, and it's obviously good for consumers.

Alas, it's just not in the cards. At this point, RIM would be better off with a wholesale restructuring and strategy shift that leaves the current CEO duo looking for new jobs. Nokia (NYSE: NOK) is betting the company on a whole new strategy and software platform under the wing of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT). If Mr. Softy doesn't want another protege, maybe RIM could just port the best messaging features of BlackBerry over to the Android platform and try again. That would certainly be easier than pushing this QNX elephant through the eye of a needle. Or perhaps the company could just find an all-out buyer that's willing to shake things up.

Either way I think it's obvious that RIM's strategy isn't working, despite management's obtestations. If you want a turnaround play in the mobile market, I think you'd be better off with long-shot Nokia than head-case RIM.

If you want a surefire investment riding the smartphone and tablet waves, you might want to think outside the gadget box. Read this free report to find a largely unknown company doing exactly that -- it's The Motley Fool's top stock for 2011!

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Marvell Technology Group. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Microsoft, and NVIDIA. They have also recommended creating a diagonal call position in Microsoft, writing puts on NVIDIA, and 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. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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Stocks Mentioned

BlackBerry Stock Quote
$4.81 (2.34%) $0.11
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
$240.74 (3.37%) $7.84
Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
$142.45 (3.08%) $4.25
Nokia Corporation Stock Quote
Nokia Corporation
$4.39 (2.81%) $0.12
ARM Holdings plc Stock Quote
ARM Holdings plc
NVIDIA Corporation Stock Quote
NVIDIA Corporation
$125.12 (3.07%) $3.73
Marvell Technology Group Ltd. Stock Quote
Marvell Technology Group Ltd.
$44.50 (3.71%) $1.59

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