Research In Motion Earnings Preview: Will It Continue to Disappoint?

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The past couple of quarters (and years) have not been kind to far-fallen Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) . The company was once a mighty player in one of the hottest secular tech trends that it helped create: smartphones.

The BlackBerry maker is set to report fourth-quarter and full-year fiscal 2012 results on Thursday; will it continue to disappoint?

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Research In Motion Stock Chart by YCharts

If its fourth quarter looks anything like its second or third, then investors have little to look forward to. RIM's own guidance calls for revenue in the fourth quarter to be between $4.6 billion and $4.9 billion, with earnings per share in the range of $0.80 and $0.95. The company expects to ship between 11 million and 12 million BlackBerry smartphones.

As far as the Street is concerned, analysts are looking for a little bit less. The consensus estimates call for $4.55 billion in sales up top and $0.82 per share down below. Those estimates would represent an 18% drop in sales and a 54% plunge in profit, compared with the $5.55 billion in revenue and $1.78-per-share profit that the company posted a year ago.

It will be interesting to see how PlayBook shipments turn out, especially since the doomed device recently saw a major software upgrade that at long last brought basic features like email, calendar, and contact apps to the tablet. The addition of those mainstays allowed it to graduate from useless to irrelevant.

The PlayBook launched in the first fiscal quarter and saw unit shipments of 500,000 that quarter, followed by 200,000, and then 150,000 last quarter. That brings its cumulative total up to 850,000 units shipped. If RIM can move more than 150,000 PlayBooks this quarter to top a million in a year, then at least it could beat Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) , which took a full year to sell a million tablets.

When it comes to tablets, neither one of those companies should delude itself into thinking it has a chance at competing with Apple (NAS: AAPL) , which sold 15.4 million iPads last quarter alone. Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) is ruling Google Android tablet territory, and while it won't give us specifics, sales estimates range from 3.9 million units to 4.7 million units in the fourth quarter.

Buckle up, RIM investors. It's probably not going to be pretty.

Just because RIM is missing out on mobile, that doesn't mean you have to. The mobile revolution will be The Next Trillion-Dollar Revolution, and it doesn't seem as if RIM has much of a chance to salvage its prospects. Instead, you should consider a company that's powering the revolution from the inside. Get the free report now.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Amazon.com and Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Amazon.com.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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