Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie sounded as confident as ever on the company's first quarter earnings conference call, but analysts aren't quite buying it. Do you see what Balsillie sees when it comes to RIM's prospects?
Simply put, it remains to be seen if the rest of the world sees what Balsillie sees. There's a dangerous you-just-wait-and-see game being played here and RIM needs to deliver. Balsillie stopped short of detailing products on the company's conference call (transcript)---but most analysts expected a BlackBerry slider in the third calendar quarter. The RIM CEO chafed when asked about market share declines as well as the assumption that the BlackBerry is behind the innovation curve relative to the iPhone and Android devices.
Balsillie countered with the following:
- Carrier efficiency matters;
- BlackBerry isn't behind;
- Globally RIM is strong;
- And RIM can and does innovate.
He said RIM will also have a lot of marketing heft behind its new products.
We have specific hero campaigns, certainly in the United States. Major -- bigger campaigns than we've ever had before. And we certainly have launches throughout the world. So, they're major hero campaigns. They're committed. It's booked, the products, the shipments, the promotion campaign. They're very substantial. And we also are rolling these out around the world.
And then Vivek Arya, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, asked:
I think the fundamental question that a lot of us and investors are grappling with is what will help RIM regain US market share? It seems AT&T channel is very strongly aligned with Apple and Verizon and Sprint seems to be aligning with Android. So, where does that leave RIM? The specific question I have is what will motivate customers to buy a BlackBerry 6 product instead of, say, the new iPhone 4 or new Android products. Other than network efficiency, what kind of differentiators should we focus on.
Be careful about you implicit assumptions in your question, or shall I say your explicit assumptions in your question. Yes, I think you guys will just have to watch and see what the plans are. I think there's a lot of implicit and explicit assumptions that may be should be examined. Part of that is the question of how much does -- how powerful is their innovation is a good question. What's the timing of it is a good question.
I think an important question to ask is how much does constructive alignment matter to a carrier? That has been an enormous issue throughout Europe and Asia and definitely coming on in Europe and I think, how much does efficiency matter and when you look at these pricing plans, I think that that should tell you something. Watch and see. We have unprecedented campaigns and device programs and commitments in our history and I'm just not going to talk anything more about our products and our launches until their time.
Analysts aren't quite so sure about RIM. Yes, there's an enterprise upgrade cycle. Yes, RIM is competitive. And yes RIM has the data efficiency argument down and can thrive among tiered plans. That latter point is notable. RIM could win with an efficiency argument with consumers---especially after they have been hosed a few times for going over data caps. Nevertheless, some analysts say that RIM has to get this product cycle down.
Macquerie analyst Phil Cusick asked in his research note, "can you see what Jim sees?"
Oppenheimer analyst Ittai Kidron said in a research note:
In our view, RIM's upcoming product cycle and OS upgrade (6.0) are its most critical ever given the intense competitive environment. Strong execution, high-quality products and software along with the proper leveraging of carrier relationships (hero campaigns, international support) could significantly improve RIM's position and reignite growth. If RIM stumbles, we see a long, unattractive journey of playing catch-up.