Thursday, September 16, 2010

Research In Motion's Moment of Truth

By Eric Jackson
RealMoney Contributor

9/16/2010 2:15 PM EDT
Click here for more stories by Eric Jackson

Research In Motion (RIMM - commentary - Trade Now) will report its latest quarterly earnings this afternoon after the close. Here's a preview.

I have been short Research In Motion since mid-June, just prior to the last earnings call. Back then, my thesis was that the company was going to have a Nokia (NOK - commentary - Trade Now)-type swoon. New models were no longer going to excite. People would increasingly be drawn to the Apple (AAPL - commentary - Trade Now) iPhone 4 and new Google (GOOG -commentary - Trade Now) Android devices. I also believed that people would increasingly become trained on typing emails on flat screens and find that they were "good enough" compared with the tactile RIMM keyboard. Finally, the enterprise -- RIMM's stronghold -- looked vulnerable to me. Most people don't want to carry multiple devices, and I believed they would increasingly push to make their touch-screen phone their work phone.

This thesis is still valid today in my view (although it has become much more popular since June).

We got validation of the thesis from RIMM's June 24 earnings call, which did not paint a rosy view of the next earnings call (which is coming today). The stock sold off from $59 to the low $40s on the outlook, despite co-CEO Jim Balsillie's tough talk and optimism that his new devices would be a "quantum leap" for the company and really excite consumers.

The stock began to perk up ahead of the August announcement of the company's newest touch-screen BlackBerry, which kept the keyboard as a slide-out: the Torch. The new phone failed to inspire the critics and - a week later - when it went on sale, there were no lines outside AT&T stores or stories on your local late-night news about its debut.

Now, we hear news that JPMorgan (JPM - commentary - Trade Now) is letting its bankers use their iPhones instead of requiring them to carry a corporate-issued BlackBerry. Comscore says that BlackBerry's smartphone market share in the U.S. slipped from April to July by 2% (although it still had 39% share, making it No. 1). Nielsen released a report saying that 57% of current BlackBerry owners want to make their next smartphone something other than the brand they are using now (vs. 29% for Android users and only 11% for iPhone users).


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