A Foolish Week of Telecom
This week, the Washington Nationals played the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto. In a fitting salute to Canada's national cell phone, the Nats' phenom rookie, Bryce Harper, hit a monster home run off the BlackBerry banner high above the right-centerfield wall.
That was the insult. Here's the injury: Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) former co-chief executive officers, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, received severance packages in the millions of dollars for their work in CEOing the once-dominant BlackBerry brand into near irrelevance.
Balsillie received $8 million and Lazaridis got $4 million. A lot of money, yes, but a mere pittance compared with how much value their RIM shares -- and that of the multitude of RIM investors -- has lost. Shares peaked at $145 four years ago but have fallen more than 90% since.
Pearls before swine?
What better way to increase smartphone sales than to increase a phone's price to the point that only those with seven-digit incomes (or two-digit IQs) would ever buy one? I'm talking about the jus- launched "Porsche Design P'9981 Smartphone from BlackBerry." Catchy name, isn't it?
RIM's latest device sports a stainless-steel body, a back covered with leather, a customized user interface for its touchscreen, and an extra-special "premium" BlackBerry PIN. The price for all this is $1,890, around three times the cost of an iPhone, yet still with all the features that have failed to excite the smartphone marketplace.
Et tu, Vertu?
Just as RIM has gone upscale with its P'9981, Nokia (NYS: NOK) has gotten out of the carriage trade by jettisoning its ultra-luxury handset brand, Vertu. Private-equity firm EQT picked up the maker of the "aesthetically pleasing" yet functionally mundane smartphones for a rumored $250 million.
It would probably be easier to get a bank loan to buy Vertu, the company, than it would be to buy a Vertu phone. What loan officer -- other than one working for Countrywide, say -- would lend anyone $300,000 to buy a cell phone, even if it is encrusted with gems?
Winter is coming for Nokia employees
It's June, but the sun hasn't risen yet for the Finnish company. If it's always darkest before the dawn, then Nokia must be getting ready to put the coffee on, because things are getting downright gloomier on their side of the Baltic, if that were possible.
On Thursday, the company gave its third cut in outlook over the last year. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said he expected the transition to the company's new Windows Phone-driven smartphones to have produced results faster than it has. "We have very challenging business conditions ... [and] we need to ensure that we have the capital requirements in place to help us through our transition," he said.
Unfortunately for 10,000 Nokia workers, that transition will include losing their jobs, a move that will save the company $2 billion by 2013, according to Elop.
Microsoft to the rescue?
With a company like Nokia being in such a pitiable state, there are, naturally, takeover rumors. One of the most persistent is that Microsoft is the likeliest savior.
Light Readingheld a poll in which it asked its readers to vote on what they thought of Nokia's fate. Out of 150 respondents, almost half said Microsoft would buy Nokia. At the other end of the scale, 3% thought RIM would be the buyer.
A pessimistic 23% said Nokia would best be RIP.
Sprint, free at last
This week, Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) announced that because of Clearwire's (NAS: CLWR) issuing more shares, its "economic interest [in Clearwire] has fallen below 50%." That, according to Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat, would have Sprint reclaiming its "full voting rights so that our voting rights and economic rights are once again aligned."
Sprint reduced its voting rights in Clearwire a year ago to avoid responsibility for any potential default of Clearwire's debt.
A plan for sharing? Not even close.
Verizon launched its new "Share Everything" plan Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, I couldn't see how the "Share Everything" plan would "Save Anyone" anything. This is how I came to that conclusion: My family of four runs up a monthly bill of $210 on Verizon Wireless -- not including taxes and surcharges. That's for three smartphones, one feature phone, and one iPad. The smart devices each have a 2 gigabyte-per-month allowance for data. We never even come close to half those allowances, which is why a shared data plan has such an appeal.
I ran Verizon Wireless' Share Everything calculator, which concluded that our family would require 8 gigabytes of shared data per month to go along with the plan's unlimited voice and texting. The price: $250, plus taxes and surcharges.
No, thanks, Verizon. I'll stay with my present quagmire of a plan.
Apple taps TomTom
Apple (NAS: AAPL) boggled Google by giving Dutch GPS and navigation software maker TomTom the mapping business for its next version of the iPhone and iPad operating system. That OS, iOS 6, is expected to be ready in the fall.
Google has been the Big Kahuna in the smartphone navigation sphere, but its own mapping supplier for the past four years has been TomTom. That deal has another year to go. Meanwhile, Google is stockpiling its own maps for that day.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of Nokia. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google, Apple, and Microsoft and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and 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.