It's too early to know if Research In Motion's (RIMM) new operating system can resurrect the ailing BlackBerry brand. But the RIM folks have a couple of things to smile about these days.
We've all watched BlackBerry's long, slow fall over the last few years. It's been painful-like watching a number one draft pick get into the pros, have an amazing first few years and then decline way too early.
Lack of innovation (among other things) at RIM has dropped the company's smartphone market share from a once-dominant position to that of an also-ran. Only some serious innovation at this point can lift BlackBerry back up.
It's unlikely to rise that much, and highly unlikely to rise to its former glory. RIM has simply lost too many individual customers, and the last remaining vestiges (businesses) are going too, now that customers can get secure phones from Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG).
We won't know until next after we see how the new BlackBerry mobile devices sell. But in the meantime, three things have happened recently that could give the RIM folks some hope for the new year.
Early reviews of the new BlackBerry 10 (BB10) operating system have been positive, especially from the wireless carriers (more on that later).
With BB10, it looks like RIM is trying to bridge the gap between its traditional business customers and the general public customers currently devoted to iOS and Android.
According to the Washington Post, RIM has said it wants the new OS to "provide secure but fluid navigation between users' personal and business data" and has opened up its app store to developers in an attempt to populate the store with "meaningful" programs geared toward businesses.
These positive reviews, along with general anticipation, have led analysts to speculate tentatively on a comeback for BlackBerry in 2013-which, in turn, has led to increased investment confidence.
Peter Misek of Jeffries gave BB10 a positive 20 to 30 percent chance of success, according to the New York Times. He sent a note saying so to investors a week and a half ago, and RIM's Nasdaq stock went up a couple bucks because of it (despite its less-than-glowing tone).
"Despite better prospects, we still see only a 20 to 30 percent [chance] of BB10 success, as consumers demand will be the ultimate determinant," Misek wrote, according to the Times.
While it may not be a ringing endorsement, the "better prospects" part suggests tentative optimism. And Misek isn't the only one.
National Bank Financial's Kris Thompson told Bloomberg that he lifted his projected U.S. stock price for RIM (post-BB10 release) from $12 to $15 because of "positive sentiment building in the industry."
Eric Jackson of Ironfire Capital LLC, who previously predicted declines in RIM's share value, recently bought those very same RIM shares, expecting a rise from loyal customers upgrading to the new OS.
"Most are greatly underestimating how many loyal subscribers will upgrade to BB10 in calendar 2013," Jackson told Bloomberg. "All those pending upgrades are currently not factored into the stock."
Goldman Sachs just upgraded its assessment of RIM's stock from "neutral" to "buy," according to the Toronto Sun. As a result, RIM stock on the Nasdaq jumped about 10% from $11 to $12 on Thursday.
According to the Associated Press (AP), Goldman Sachs' Simona Jankowski upgraded RIM to "buy" status based on BB10's positive reviews so far and wireless carriers' support for a valid third OS in the market, along with iOS and Android. (That support may or may not influence carriers' enthusiasm for BB10.)
Jankowski is predicting that RIM will return to profitability by the end of fiscal year 2014, the AP reported, though she expects RIM to slide back into the red a year later.
We'll see. At least for now, maybe the RIM folks can find something to smile about.