Research in Motion is pounding the BlackBerry 10 drum ahead of a late January launch of its potentially company saving devices. What's unclear is whether reality will clash with the early enthusiasm.
In the end we're all guessing about BlackBerry 10's success or failure. Frankly, it all boils down to whether you believe in RIM and whether a long-delayed BlackBerry 10 platform can generate consumer and corporate support.
Rest assured that most mobile players---tech buyers, carriers and everyone in the food chain---wants a viable No. 3 platform. No one wants an Android-Apple duopoly. That fear is why folks root for Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 to succeed. Carriers will push both if only to diversify.
But that doesn't mean folks will have Crackberry addictions all over again.
This small reality check comes ahead of RIM's earnings report on Thursday. Many analysts are writing the quarter off. Simply put, RIM's third quarter is going to stink. The company is expected to lose 35 cents a share on revenue of $2.66 billion in its fiscal third quarter. The fourth quarter doesn't look much better since RIM will only have a month of selling BlackBerry 10 devices under its belt.
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All that matters for RIM right now is keeping subscribers and cash burn. The more cash on hand, the more RIM can market BlackBerry 10.
In March and beyond, we'll know if RIM is a keeper or just another replay of Palm. Remember Palm? That company had a great platform, took too long to get it out and then failed to get consumer support. HP bought it and Palm became an even bigger debacle.
RIM has enterprises testing BlackBerry 10 and carriers all around the world on deck.
But we're all guessing about the BlackBerry 10 fate. The analysts are almost comical at this point. To wit:
National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson said:
Check out RIM’s stock move vs. Apple over the past three months. RIM is entering a material product upgrade cycle. Apple seems to be exiting a strong iPhone cycle; the iPhone 5 is a big let-down vs. previous models. If RIM delivers with the BB10 the stock should move higher; otherwise it’s likely back to US$6.
That's a big "if."
Evercore Mark McKechnie said:
We remain cautious on the chances for a turnaround at RIM as the iOS and Android ecosystems accelerate and also begin to offer RIM-like capabilities through open Mobile Device Management (“MDM”) software platforms. We also expect a slow ramp of BBX as it will require the deployment of new BES 10 servers in the enterprise, versus competitive SAAS-type MDM offerings.
And Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelblum considers RIM to be Palm 2.0:
Shares continue to run as expectations build ahead of the BB10 launch, but we continue to see a low probability RIM becomes a viable third mobile OS. We nonetheless believe the stock remains strong into the launch, similar to Palm.
Bottom line: Your take on RIM largely depends on a leap of faith. Do I believe? I believe RIM has a large enough base to work with. The company can survive with a viable platform that will appeal to the installed base in developed markets and ultimately emerging ones too. I don't believe that RIM can ever get back to its glory days.