If a BlackBerry bush falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? I guess that depends on cell-tower coverage and installed ringtones. Either way, we'll get a third-quarter update from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) on Thursday night. Fellow Fool Alex Dumortier was left skeptical by the second-quarter report, and Dave Mock can find a few reasons to either buy or sell this stock. Let's find out why.

What Fools say:
Here's how Research In Motion's Motley Fool CAPS rating stacks up against some of its peers and competitors:

 

Market Cap (billions)

Trailing P/E Ratio

CAPS Rating

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)

$102.4

19.6

***

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

$84.8

17.8

****

Nokia (NYSE:NOK)

$62.0

8.6

****

Research In Motion

$22.6

12.8

**

Motorola (NYSE:MOT)

$10.0

N/A

**

Data taken from Motley Fool CAPS and Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, on Dec. 17.

"People aren't rushing out to buy a new $200 phone when their old phone is working just fine," says CAPS player Foliobuilder in support of a thumbs-down rating on RIM. "Meanwhile Apple is eating RIMM's lunch because they have the consumer side and are now encroaching on the enterprise side."

On the other hand, all-star CAPS player DemonDoug poses the rhetorical question, "What kind of company is most likely to survive a severe downturn, even a depression, and possible U$dollar deflation (and therefore beat the S&P 500)?" The answer: "One with no debt," like Research In Motion.

What management does:
The BlackBerry has certainly held its own against an onslaught of iPhones, Androids, and assorted lesser lights. What other multibillion-dollar seller of high-tech goods can still double both sales and earnings year over year these days?

Margins

6/07

9/07

12/07

3/08

5/08

8/08

Gross

53.6%

52.5%

51.6%

51.3%

51%

50.9%

Operating

26.5%

27.1%

27.8%

28.8%

29.2%

28.7%

Net

20.7%

20.7%

21.1%

21.5%

21.7%

21%

FCF/Revenue

16.7%

13%

16.3%

20.4%

12.2%

13.5%

Y-O-Y Growth

6/07

9/07

12/07

3/08

5/08

8/08

Revenue

57.6%

76.3%

89.6%

97.9%

104.5%

98.5%

Earnings

94.9%

116.5%

133.1%

104.9%

113.9%

101.6%

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
Research In Motion's unique market position is based on a huge and very adoring fan base. Sure, iPhones can run business applications. Of course you can connect to your company's Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Exchange servers with a humble Nokia or Motorola smartphone. But then you don't have a BlackBerry, dude, so it can't be real business. Customer perception is a powerful force, indeed. And customers perceive BlackBerry to be the business smartphone.

I'm curious to see how the experiment from Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Vodafone and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), using BlackBerry Storm in consumer-oriented RIM phones is working out. I think chances of a massive success are about equal to the risk of a headlong pratfall, and the outcome here will set the tone for the next few years of growth -- or lack thereof. Tune in, then turn on or back out.