"I'd expect RIM's share to climb some more until the product actually launches. And that's likely to be the end of the good news," I said. "In other words, I see RIM hitting a final peak in January or February of 2013. It's all downhill from there."
Jumping the gun?
It's way too early to tell if that prognosis was absolutely correct, but all signs point to "yes" so far. The company stepped up to the plate with a massively underwhelming selection of new smartphones. The supposedly life-saving BB10 software has its bright spots, like a revamped notification system and nifty photo management tools, but doesn't seem to make up for the hardware difference. Swing and a miss.
In addition, the crucial American debut was pushed back to the end of March -- for most major networks. Faithful Verizon customers have to wait another month as Big Red gets its BlackBerry ducks in a row for an April launch. That delay might not seem like a big deal, but it's huge for a company that has released only one new U.S. product since September 2010. BlackBerry cannot afford to rest on its fading laurels while the competition runs circles around it.
Speaking of which, BlackBerry's born-obsolete handsets are about to get lapped again. The new BlackBerry Z10 hardware looks a lot like last year's Samsung Galaxy S III, and Sammy will introduce the Galaxy S IV on March 14 -- a couple of weeks before the new BlackBerrys become available to American customers. That may or may not be enough to put Galaxy S IV phones on American store shelves before BlackBerry Z10 and Q10, but it's most certainly early enough to make potential buyers aware that there's a new generation in town.
On top of that, rumor has it that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is accelerating its iPhone release schedule. Cupertino is even going with two distinctive models if early reports are right -- one high-end handset for the current iPhone crowd and a lower-end, less costly version for price sensitive markets. One potential target for the low-end Apple phone could be corporate accounts, which buy phones in large batches and would appreciate a more utilitarian Apple take on telephony. That's another roadblock in front of BlackBerry's path to prosperity, and perhaps a fatal one.
Word on the Street
Analyst firm MKM Partners found that less than 10% of the 100 best-selling apps for Android and iPhone handsets are available for BlackBerry 10 today. That puts the Canadians at a huge disadvantage. Without quality apps, nobody will want to buy the handset. Without hardware sales, developers won't spend their limited time and resources to support another failing platform.
So which died first -- the chicken or the egg? Either way, it's a poultry catastrophe.
That's why MKM gives BlackBerry 10 a 10% chance (fittingly enough) to pull the company back from the grave.
Early estimates of international BlackBerry 10 sales are not too encouraging, either. MKM sees Z10 sales adding up to 400,000 units this quarter. Canaccord Genuity cut its 1.75 million unit estimate to 300,000 after checking retail channels in Canada and the U.K. The Z10 reportedly sold out in many locations, but more likely due to limited supply than solid demand.
Why are you such a hater, Anders?
Look, I wish things were different. BlackBerry could been a contender, but chose to walk a different path -- and get totally lost. I like competition. I'm a big fan of consumer choice. That's why it pains me to conclude that BlackBerry is indeed going down the tubes. If BB10 was the Canadian team's Hail Mary pass, it flew way off target. The stock peaked at $17.90 per share just before the platform was unveiled, and that looks like the final hurrah.
If you rode BlackBerry to a double over the last six months, I would suggest cashing in your chips today. The BB10 speculation frenzy is behind us, and the stock can only go down from here. My bearish CAPScall on BlackBerry stays up as the shares go down.
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