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Once-great smartphone maker Research In Motion is prepared to release its quarterly numbers on Thursday, and at least one analyst is predicting decent results. The only problem is that the bar for the BlackBerry maker has been set very low.
"We anticipate the company to meet or beat consensus as expectations are very low, looking for a 50% Y/Y decline in revenue and an operating loss of $0.35 or nearly $300 million," wrote Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu in a note to investors on Tuesday. "However, we remain concerned with its declining business and sustainability of its cash balance. Moreover, it remains to be seen if BB10 will be embraced by consumers and developers beyond early carrier excitement."
BlackBerry 10 is most certainly the key to RIM's future success, and, frankly, if it can remain a viable company. Once the global leader in smartphones, Research In Motion has seen its market share among consumers plummet in recent years with the onslaught from Apple's iPhone and a bevy of handsets from Android manufacturers. RIM has hung on a little better in the enterprise segment, but more and more companies are turning to BlackBerry competitors and adopting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies that allow their employees to use their personal cellphones for work — and most of those aren't BlackBerrys.
Look for RIM on Thursday to report just 7 million smartphone shipments in its previous quarter, Wu says – a 50 percent decline from the year-ago quarter, making the Jan. 30, 2013, launch of RIM's new operating system to be that much more important. The manufacturer is expected to debut two smartphones on that date – one being the much-anticipated BlackBerry London.
Just who is anticipating it remains the critical question for RIM. More than one report this fall has said that carriers are impressed with BlackBerry 10 in their early screenings of the operating system. Those comments have helped RIM double its stock price in the last three months (it hit a nine-year low right after the release of Apple's iPhone 5 in September).
" ... does the world really need a third or fourth mobile OS touchscreen platform? And what makes it different?" Wu asks. "So far, developer support and customer adoption have been lukewarm so it remains to be seen if carrier hope wins out. To us, it's not just the number of apps, but the quality of apps, and whether developers are making money and customers are using them."
Microsoft is making a serious push to be that third touchscreen platform. You've been hiding under a rock if you haven't noticed the massive marketing campaign the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has undertaken this fall. Its Windows 8 operating system is prevalent in a new line of Lumia smartphones from Nokia, as well as a handful of phones from Samsung, HTC and others.
A successful BB10 launch could help restore RIM's credibility in the smartphone market – or at least make it a more attractive acquisition target. A flop could mean curtains for the Waterloo, Ont., Canada-based company.