Executives at Research In Motion
(RIMM) are used to headlines warning of the company's demise. The company's stock price has famously fallen from highs of $148 at the height of BlackBerry's popularity to around $10 today. Currently sitting on roughly $2 billion in cash and investments, the Canadian tech company might see its stock price sink further still in coming quarters.
Analysts say they're most concerned with the lack of official information about the forthcoming BlackBerry 10 device. On the other hand, the BlackBerry 10, which will launch a new operating system, is also seen as a potential game-changer not only for the company but for the entire smartphone landscape.
Not surprisingly, RIM and its future have been the focus of numerous rumors recently. Here are five bits of speculation swirling around the firm.
1. RIM will release BlackBerry10 in the first half of October.
For now, the exact date of the Blackberry 10 launch remains a billion-dollar question. CEO Thorsten Heins has told the press that a BlackBerry 10 device will be released in the second half of 2012. About a month ago, however, the blog N4BB
reported that the company will announce the release date in mid-August, and that the device itself would be on sale in October, according to an unnamed source. "As expected, RIM plans to pump a lot of marketing dollars into BlackBerry 10. The early release shows this as the first BlackBerry 10 device will release slightly after the back-to-school and just before the holiday markets," wrote blogger Lucas Atkins.
The company has shown a sense of humor about what's been perceived as a delay for the new smartphone. Last week at a BlackBerry 10 Jam session -- a road tour for developers -- the company started the event
with a video spoof of Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” adding its own customized lyrics.
2. RIM's BlackBerry 10 is truly "developer-friendly."
from the BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour talk of what one fan called "incredible new features" for the product, including an upgraded camera and app switching capabilities. Company VP Alec Saunders said there's been a 250% increase in developers in the BlackBerry App World.
In fact, a few developers who attended the recent BlackBerry 10 Jam event in Santa Clara, California told CNET's Jessica Dolcourt
that the new device is going to be the first truly developer-friendly smartphone. "The press didn't realize the interesting stuff that was really happening, these software authors maintained, since RIM shut the press out of the developer-only sessions, held at a separate hotel," Dolcourt writes, adding, "The sessions were the first time that RIM also handed out pre-release devices to 'bona fide' developers for the purpose of testing their apps before RIM releases a phone or tablet, not after."
3. RIM's BlackBerry 10 is a race to the finish line.
Of course, some pundits were ready to rain on RIM's parade. A report in the Wall Street Journal
last week called the new device a "patchwork phone" and highlighted all of the special features that were actually created by outside companies, including the device's two main attractions, a predictive touch-screen keyboard and the much touted in-phone camera that can take a series of near-instantaneous images. "Most of the BlackBerry 10's critical features are a patchwork of hardware and software obtained quietly through about a dozen acquisitions and multiple licensing deals over the past two years," said the WSJ. Although Apple
(AAPL) and Google
(GOOG) are known for boosting their own devices the same way, RIM stands accused of taking the quilt-work method to a whole new level. That fact is especially significant considering that RIM practically invented the smartphone and has traditionally relied on the strength of its in-house engineers. Now the WSJ
says, "RIM executives are racing to sew together all of these pieces in time for the device's launch expected this year."
4. Facebook will buy RIM.
Could this be the match made in heaven, or is it the most unlikely scenario in tech history? Ever since it was reported that Facebook
(FB) was looking to enter the phone wars, rumors have spread that Zuckerberg's team will gobble up RIM. "Sure, the odds of Facebook actually acquiring the BlackBerry-maker as part of its reported move into the hardware business are very slim. But unlike the revolving door of tech giants that were rumored to be interested in RIM over the past couple of years, Facebook as a buyer actually makes a little bit of sense," write Omar El Akkad of The Globe and Mail
last month. His reasoning?
...[B]uilding a phone isn’t easy. Sure, Facebook recently dropped a billion dollars on a smartphone camera app in the form of Instagram, and a lot of Facebook’s social functionality would work great on a mobile platform. But building a smartphone requires that all these software tools play nice with the phone’s hardware. It also requires a stable operating system and an appealing physical design. Facebook doesn’t have much experience doing any of this.
But RIM does. Sure, when it comes to market share, Canada’s tech giant has spent the past couple of years doing an uncanny impression of a skydiver without a parachute, but it still has value. The company’s assets include some of the best keyboards, most secure e-mail networks, and richest customers on Earth.
One of the reasons RIM hasn’t been able to translate these assets into something resembling an iPhone-beater is because the company’s roots are firmly planted in the enterprise world – it started out catering to serious corporate clients and it has had an incredibly hard time repositioning itself in an Angry Birds world.
Facebook has the opposite problem – its closest business ally is Zynga, a company that makes money off virtual sheep. A Facebook-RIM partnership would give the smartphone maker a social side, and the social network some serious hardware.
Mobile expert Paul Amsellem, COO of Mobile Network Group in France and a former general manager at Nokia
(NOK), might agree. He recently told IBTimes UK
, "Facebook is under pressure from investors and needs a long term project." The social network company "needs to do something different so that it can move away from having to deal with Apple and Google's rules with regard to application development," he added.
5. RIM's stock is set up for a comeback.
As Canadian Press
reporter David Friend makes clear in this recent video
, speculation from analysts and pundits that RIM may soon be the target of an acquisition is driving up the company's stock price, making RIM look attractive to investors willing to bet on a turnaround. No doubt, a recovery for RIM could be a windfall for investors willing to take the risk, says Friend. Yet the fact is that no one has stepped in with a bid yet, and there are a number of warning signs in the company's earnings. Although RIM doesn't report until the end of June, execs have already warned that the company will be reporting an operating loss, and sales are down.
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