Research In Motion's Blowing BlackBerry 10 Smoke

Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) owners were treated to a glass of ice water, and little else, at the recent shareholder meeting in Ontario. The obvious attempt to declare management's intention to cut costs and get serious about whatever the future may hold didn't do much to quell unrest. Aha! The answer? Tell 'em about plans for the new BlackBerry 10 rollout in -- hold your breath -- January! Unless there's another delay.

The big meetin'
Not surprisingly, the annual RIM shareholder meeting had more than the usual amount of grumbling. While many attendees arrived hoping to hear something relatively concrete about the company's plans for the immediate future, what they got instead was a lot of chairperson-speak.

Newly appointed Chairwoman Barbara Stymiest had this to say when asked about the company's plans:

We're doing all our homework to understand what our options are. We are doing this in parallel with delivering on BB10. Whatever happens will be the best of the available options at the time.

Um, OK. Thanks.

In addition to problems with the BlackBerry 10 rollout, initially scheduled for release in the spring of this year, a shake-up of the management team has been in the forefront of many a shareholder's mind of late. To that end, RIM has added four new board members to the team in the past year, and there may be more to follow. That's all well and good, but it does little to address the immediate problem of product delays, a stock price that has dropped from its 52-week high of $33.54 to its current $7 and change, and the lack of a definitive plan for the company's future.

The rollout
With shareholders showing their displeasure by abstaining from board member re-election votes and asking point-blank questions about a possible sale, management needed to throw shareholders a bone. New Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben was given the task and subsequently waffled. The news of the BlackBerry 10 release was clearly intended to smooth some ruffled feathers, but it was apparent early on that Boulben only partially believed what he was saying.

After stating that "my expectation is that in some countries we will be launching in January," he went on to say, "I don't know the specifics, but it will be multiple countries on multiple continents." You'd think something as critical to a company as the rollout of what many see as a last-ditch effort for salvation would include a well-conceived plan of action. Nah. The newly hired CMO continued the backpedaling when he followed that statement by saying he can't actually guarantee BB10 will hit the shelves in January after all. The new phones, he said, will require testing, which ultimately leaves the timing of the release up to the carriers.

The BlackBerry 10 introduction has the makings of one big, ugly mess. Can you imagine what will happen to the stock price if the end of the year rolls around and RIM management is forced to announce a delay, even a short one? It's like not being able to take your eyes off the wreck on the side of the road as you drive by. You don't want to look, but somehow just can't help it.

The usual players are still eating away at RIM's market share. In Q1, RIM's piece of the smartphone pie was cut to 6.4% worldwide, less than half of what is was. Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android OS was powering a whopping 59% of the world's smartphones, and Apple (NAS: AAPL) had a healthy 23%. To make matters worse for RIM, both Google and Apple are expected to showcase new products in time for the holidays. RIM? Left extolling the virtues of waiting to introduce BlackBerry 10 until 2013 so they won't have to compete during the huge holiday shopping season. What?

Bottom line is, nothing's changed at Research In Motion. Finding a private investor and/or shopping the company are the only sane options left; that hasn't changed. If you were hoping for a BlackBerry 10-induced RIM revival, you're going to be severely disappointed.

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