RIM Soars on Industry Support


Don't look now, but BlackBerry maker Research In Motion just jumped 13% on absolutely massive trading volume. The troubled stock may have lost 86% of its value in five years, but it's up 75% since the end of October.

Maybe there's life in this supposedly dead stock yet? That would be a huge surprise to us skeptics.

Well, let's consider what pushed RIM higher on Friday. Sprint Nextel just announced that the third-largest American network will indeed carry the upcoming range of BlackBerry 10 phones. That completes a sweep of the top four operators, since T-Mobile, AT&T , and Verizon all officially climbed aboard the BB10 bandwagon last week.

No surprises there, given that all four already sell older BlackBerry gear. Still, it's always nice to see some industry support for a new and supposedly revolutionary product.

On top of that potential catalyst, RIM got some positive media coverage as an analyst roundtable on CNBC sent good vibrations over the TV airwaves. The pundits reported hugely bullish options trading and a "speculative" tint to the big jump but never suggested that there was anything wrong with that.

The proof is in the poutine. The Canadians will launch BB10 by the end of January, and then we'll see just how supportive the wireless networks really are.

So far, the outlook is mixed. T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere is "extremely optimistic that it's going to be a successful product," and AT&T handset chief Jeff Bradley did his best Spock impression: "It's logical to expect our current (BlackBerry) customers will have the best BlackBerry devices to choose from in the future," he told Reuters.

But Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams seems far less excited. "We're hopeful it's going to be a good device," he said at the Consumer Electronics Show. "We'll carry it." Just don't expect any fireworks on launch day, I suppose.

Recent history shows that even a totally committed launch party with hero devices and confetti doesn't guarantee huge sales. Just ask Nokia how its widely touted Lumia 920 launch turned out, but watch out for spitballs and rotten eggs in response. A similar flop for the BB10 platform would be an absolute disaster; RIM really needs this white knight to deliver in spades right away.

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