Research In Motion gave Wall Street reason to cheer by posting net income of $412.5 million for its fourth business quarter -- a dramatic rise from the $187.4 million it reported a year ago. Even better, net income for the Blackberry-maker's entire fiscal year rose a whopping 105 percent to $1.29 billion, or $2.26 per share.
In its March-ended fourth quarter, RIM shipped a record 4.4 million smartphones at an average selling price of $348. The Canada-based company also realized a net gain of 2.18 million smartphone subscribers in the period, raising its total account base to more than 14 million BlackBerry customers.
"Heightened retail activities helped drive exceptional subscriber growth, with net subscriber account additions growing more than 32 percent over the prior quarter," noted RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie.
The iPhone Factor
Quarterly growth was driven by the strong performance of the company's Blackberry Pearl and Blackberry Curve models at carrier partners throughout December -- particularly in North America. The success of numerous promotions in January and February also mitigated the post-Christmas seasonal slowdown that typically occurs in the consumer marketplace, Balsillie said.
"The heavy promotion of the CDMA Pearl drove high numbers of net new activations throughout the U.S. and Canada," Balsillie added.
He told investors that RIM did not see any evidence of a slowdown in its enterprise business outside of normal seasonal trends. The considerable buzz surrounding Apple's iPhone also seems to be helping RIM because it has so successfully introduced the concept of the smartphone to a wider consumer audience, particularly in North America.
Balsillie told financial analysts that about 38 percent of RIM's BlackBerry subscriber base fell into the non-enterprise category at the end of the business year. Moreover, about 50 percent of the company's net new subscriber account additions in the fourth quarter came from non-enterprise customers, he said.
Reaching Out To Consumers
RIM remains upbeat about its prospects in the business year ahead, in part because Sprint and Verizon Wireless are both poised to introduce a higher-speed CDMA version of Curve -- the smallest BlackBerry smartphone ever. Featuring a full QWERTY keyboard, the Blackberry Curve 8330 combines RIM's full contingent of enterprise-class capabilities with enhanced Web browsing, rich multimedia, and GPS navigation.
The company's current quarter "is shaping up to be strong" as carriers replenish their post-holiday inventories and "our CDMA partners gear up for the launch of the CDMA Curve," Balsillie said. "And we will continue to work closely with a thriving ecosystem of partners to build on our momentum during the year ahead."
RIM is also reaching out to consumers in ways that clearly recognize the value of marrying social-networking capabilities with mobility, noted Vice President Mark Guibert. Downloads of RIM's Facebook for BlackBerry application have topped one million since its launch last October, he said.
Among other things, Facebook for BlackBerry automatically pushes notifications to the user's smartphone as friends and colleagues send notes, wall posts or pokes. The application also gives users the ability to snap photos and upload them to Facebook, complete with captions and tags.
"This innovative mobile application, combined with the refined usability of BlackBerry smartphones and the incredible convenience of the push-based BlackBerry service, makes it easier than ever for Facebook users to stay connected with people wherever they choose," Guibert said.