On Monday morning, investors in Research in Motion (RIMM) cheered when the company announced a January 30th launch event for BlackBerry 10. As the title of my article suggests, this is basically a wedding for the company. The company's future depends on BB10.
Here are a few key features of Blackberry 10, taken from the above company press release:
- The BlackBerry® 10 platform has recently achieved FIPS 140-2 certification, which means that government agencies will be able to deploy BlackBerry 10 smartphones and BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 as soon as it is available.
- BlackBerry® Flow is a new user experience that allows seamless navigation across open applications and the BlackBerry® Hub.
- The BlackBerry Keyboard learns how you write and adapts to how you type so you can write faster and more accurately, giving you the kind of legendary typing experience that only BlackBerry can deliver.
- BlackBerry® Balance" offers the most elegant way to satisfy both customer and corporate needs without compromising on either. With BlackBerry Balance, personal apps and information are kept separate from work data, and the customer can switch from their personal to work profile with a simple gesture.
The analyst community has mixed views of what BB10 will bring. On the positive side, a definite launch date is what investors have been waiting for. Most believe that a late January launch means the phones will go on sale during March, which would make sense given the company's calendar Q1 of 2013 timeframe. Also, some of the features RIMM described seem appealing to analysts. It was also important to note the government certification the company received. This is the first time that a BlackBerry product has been certified before launch, meaning government purchases can occur right away.
But several questions do remain. First, the company is going to miss the holiday period. Apple (AAPL) released its new iPhone 5 in September, and is expected to sell at least 50 million new phones by the end of the year. A March date could give Apple two more prime selling months. Also, we've seen ship times for the iPhone 5 come down for the first time, when ordered online. Due to supply constraints and such a huge demand, online wait times were as high as 3 to 4 weeks, but that has come down by a week. Wait times at the carriers are significantly shorter. But the song remains the same.
The iPhone 5 is a highly desired device, and the quicker people can get their hands on them, the more Research in Motion falls behind and loses potential customers. At this point, there is nobody who expects the BlackBerry 10 platform to seriously challenge Apple, but BB10 is very important for RIM. An extra 100,000 phones Apple sold doesn't seem to make a difference for Apple when it is selling 50 million in a quarter, but for RIM, which only shipped 7.4 million phones in their most recent quarter, 100,000 is a bit more significant. Apple doesn't need the extra business, it just wants it. Research in Motion desperately needs it.
Google's (GOOG) Android remains a tough competitor as well, and RIM is currently battling Microsoft (MSFT) for third place. Microsoft's new Windows 8 phones will be out during November, so that platform will have a head start as well.
The big question here is will current and next quarter sales be impacted by this announcement? We've seen how Apple junkies have held off purchasing iPhones if a new one is expected out soon. By Research in Motion making this announcement more than two months out, they are running the risk that they will cannibalize sales of their older phones, which they are trying to dump as best as possible.
Overall, analyst estimates for the current quarter remain at $2.62 billion in revenues, which would mark a 49.9% drop over the prior year period. However, estimates for the current fiscal year (ending in February 2013) and the following fiscal year (February 2014), have trickled down slightly since my latest update. Revenue estimates stand at $11.08 and $11.09 billion for the two years, respectively, compared to $11.10 and $11.13 billion at my last check. Those numbers still represent dramatic falls from the $18.44 billion the company did in fiscal 2012, and $19.91 billion in fiscal 2011.
However, those current forecasts are a bit rosier than they were back in August. At that point, analysts were expecting revenues of $10.2 billion and a loss of $1.50 for the current fiscal year. Revenue estimates have come up by almost $900 million, and a loss of just $1.26 is now expected. But the bigger change is for fiscal 2014. In August, analysts were expecting less than $10 billion in revenues for fiscal 2014, and now they are expecting nearly $11.1 billion. That's a huge improvement, mostly due to the positive Q2 surprise we saw.
Research in Motion shares rallied Monday morning after this latest announcement. The stock faded throughout the day and declined on Tuesday, before recovering a little on Wednesday. The $9 level has been one of resistance lately, and the stock now trades at $8.49. The announcement of a BB10 launch date certainly gives us some more clarity on the device's progress, and sets the Q1 launch on track.
Research in Motion has set a date for its wedding, and it will need to come through. The company is falling further behind by the day, as other names like Apple have already got their new phones out. BB10 will definitely be the key to RIM's future, and we are now one step closer to finding out whether they will succeed or fail.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, but may initiate a long position in AAPL over the next 72 hours.
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