RIM Says Phones Doing Well, but Clouds Loom over PlayBook
Research In Motion said it shipped approximately 10.6 million smartphones in the company's second quarter, and told investors that shipments of the company's new BlackBerry 7 models in their first three weeks of availability had exceeded the company's expectations.
"We believe we are well positioned to take advantage of the coming holiday season," Research In Motion Co-CEO James Balsillie told financial analysts on a conference call Thursday.
"We anticipate acceleration of the uptake of BlackBerry devices for the remainder of the fiscal year and into 2012 as reflected in our guidance for the sequential unit shipment increase of 27 percent to 37 percent in the third quarter," Balsillie said.
Still, several investment firms continue to anticipate that mobile devices based on Apple's iOS and Google's Android platform will continue to grab market share from RIM during the remainder of this year.
Among other things, the coming global launch of Apple's next iPhone model -- including its rumored availability on Sprint Nextel's network beginning next month -- is likely to affect RIM's BlackBerry sales among mobile subscribers considering a smartphone upgrade through the remainder of this year.
A Tablet Platform Upgrade
RIM only shipped 200,000 PlayBooks during the business quarter that ended on Aug. 27. To help reinvigorate its tablet sales, the BlackBerry maker says it will launch a major software upgrade for the PlayBook in advance of this year's holiday shopping season.
"We recognize that the current availability of content and applications for PlayBook has limited the near-term uptake of the device in the market," explained Research In Motion Co-CEO Michael Lazaridis during Thursday's conference call. "And we are actively working with key partners to deliver the most desired applications and content to our targeted market segments."
The new PlayBook platform upgrade will be demonstrated at DevCon next month and released thereafter, Lazaridis said. The software update will feature built-in native email, calendar and contacts as well as web browsing enhancements, new enterprise-friendly features and the previously announced Android app player, he said.
Given that the primary goal for RIM is to increase share for its devices, the application development strategy has to support this goal, said Al Hilwa, director of applications development software at IDC.
"Aligning with major application platforms like Android is certain one way to accomplish that goal, provided the mobile platform as a whole offers other differentiation that will drive users or companies to purchase these devices," Hilwa said.
The big question is whether the PlayBook's new Android app player will discourage developers from taking the extra time to create PlayBook-specific offerings since the Android apps they are already building may also be able to run on RIM's tablet.
"We have to wait and see what they announce, but I certainly agree that offering too many ways to do things dilutes the commitment to any one of them," Hilwa said.
RIM devices have only recently started featuring larger screens that support touch in a standardized way, Hilwa said. This is one of the factors, he said, that "attract developers, who typically feel that they have to have a big enough canvass to allow their creations to shine."
What hasn't been clarified is whether the PlayBook's Android player is intended to run stock apps just as a user feature, or will offer more of a development environment where Android apps and assets can be easily ported, Hilwa said.
"I am worried that a straight player of stock apps may not provide an optimal experience," Hilwa said. "They might instead provide ways to leverage Android application code and assets but require the developer to optimize for BlackBerry to ensure that apps are highly usable."