RIM faces PlayBook, corporate-focus challenge as weak results forecast

Summary:Research in Motion's forecast looks weak, as the company is poised to report its earnings later today. How can the BlackBerry maker gets its foot back in the tablet and smartphone door?

Research in Motion, the BlackBerry manufacturer and PlayBook tablet maker, may have shipped only one of its tablets for every nineteen Apple iPad devices.

RIM's reported earnings are out later today, and the outlook looks weaker than first thought. It is believed that the company may report its first revenue decline in nine years, due to markets that it has been unable to fully conquer.

Reports suggest that around half a million PlayBook tablets were sold during the first quarter of this year, compared to 9.25 million iPads shipped last quarter. In total, analysts estimate that RIM will ship only 1.5 million PlayBook tablets compared to a whopping near 40 million iPads sold by Apple.

RIM may have missed its mark with a late and delayed PlayBook, but it is catching up nonetheless. Though the outlook appears weaker than first thought, the Ontario based smartphone maker is doing better than first thought at the beginning of this year.

June's earnings were hardly great, after its shares fell dramatically and cut its profit forecast for the year -- not helping things by announcing the lay-off of 2,000 employees.

RIM still faces the challenge, even amid the recent release of entry-level and consumer-focused BlackBerry smartphones, in the quest for a killer device and a future for its QNX-based operating system.

BlackBerry OS 7 was hoped to be QNX-based, a Linux variant offering a faster and greater performance experience. Competition from Android-giant Samsung and iOS-powered iPhone and iPad sales have all but negated BlackBerry's existence from the smartphone market, as it reached last place in the top five handset manufacturers last quarter.

Though the PlayBook is the testing ground for future QNX-based BlackBerry phones, the real test for RIM's ability to compete is when these QNX smartphones emerge; expected early next year. Some analysts expect an 'inevitable delay' considering the difficulties RIM had in getting the PlayBook out in the wild.

The typical BlackBerry corporate customer focus has been lost in the past, in light of the more active end-user younger consumer. BlackBerrys have in recent times been given less attention by the younger student market in favour of more powerful handsets.

BlackBerry shipments, however, are expected to rise to over 14 million this quarter, as the recently released smartphones, such as the Bold 9900 and Torch 2, find better footing in the market.

Yet, while Research in Motion's outlook may appear weaker than thought, the vast, fragmented array of Android tablets are themselves losing ground to the established brand of the BlackBerry PlayBook -- proving that the brand and naming alone can spur sales.

Related:

Topics: Laptops, BlackBerry, Hardware, Mobility, Security, Tablets

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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