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RIM: Darkness on the Edge of Waterloo


RIM is taking another beating after a terrible quarter and a major product delay.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Research In Motion (RIMM) reported fiscal first-quarter earnings after the close yesterday, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Let's get right to the ugly headline facts and figures:
  • RIM reported a loss of $0.37 per share, which was significantly worse than the consensus estimate of an $0.08 per share loss
  • Revenues were $2.81 billion, missing expectations by 8%
  • BlackBerry unit shipments were 7.8 million, missing Wall Street's forecasts by a significant margin
  • The company expects an operating loss for the second quarter, the size of which is unknown. However, Wall Street had already been expecting a loss of $0.06 per share for the quarter
  • The release of the BlackBerry 10 operating system has been pushed back to the the first quarter of calendar 2013
  • RIM will lay off 5,000 of its 16,500 employees


I use the phrase "unmitigated disaster" more often than any other person on earth, but I can't recall a recent instance in which it fits better.

There weren't many folks who thought RIM was about to deliver a magic surprise, but think about this: RIM is woefully behind the Apple (AAPL) iOS and Google (GOOG) Android complexes in every way possible, from hardware innovation to app ecosystems to plain-old momentum.

And now it's delaying BlackBerry 10 until early 2013. From now until then, we'll see a whole bunch of new Android phones as well as iPhone 5, which, if history is any indication, will sell in blockbuster numbers. (See: If You Think It Can't Get Any Worse for Nokia, Remember That Apple's iPhone 5 Is Coming.)

Remember, Apple tends to make major upgrades to its mobile devices every two years.

2011's iPhone 4S was a fairly minor update over 2010's iPhone 4.

So odds are, iPhone 5 will truly be something special.

RIM likely pushed back BlackBerry 10 because it wasn't good enough to hang with the big dogs.

What are the chances that, after years of being outwitted by Apple and Google at every twist and turn, RIM will capture some magic over the next six months?

And given how BlackBerry has fallen out of favor with consumers -- the worst thing about buying a BlackBerry is having to answer the questions, "Why didn't you get an iPhone?" -- even if RIM really does come up with something amazing, will people care?

Furthermore, on the conference call, RIM threw water on the idea of the company going with a third-party operating system like Android or even Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone, which eliminates one potential bull case.

Now I never though that type of strategy made sense, given Windows Phone's non-existent market share, and the ongoing struggles of Android smartphone makers like HTC and Motorola (the latter of which is incidentally now owned by Google).

However, it does give RIM bulls one more reason to just give up, which they are most certainly doing given that the stock broke $8 with authority, putting the stock back at levels not seen since 2003.

If there's a silver lining to this whole mess, it's that perhaps a few people learned the destructive power of value traps, which can all too easily suck in those wowed by superficial cheapness. (See: Four Real-World Investing Rules That Should Be Taught in Schools.)

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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