17 December, 2009

Research In Motion Regains Footing

Some difference 3 months can make. Research In Motion (RIMM) stock 3 months ago was bearing the brunt of sell-off at the behest of disappointing performance and guidance, dipping from the mid $80s to the high $60s per share. The stock had mostly held water of late, sliding slightly to the low $60s but was in a position to change all that with another earnings report.

With the increasing competition from Apple's (AAPL) iPhone, Palm's (PALM) Pre and heightened marketing given to several smart-phones running Google's (GOOG) Android software RIM had to deliver, on all fronts, and it has. Blowing past all expected metrics is leading shares of RIM higher by 11% early in after hours trade.

The lines: Revenue of $3.92Billion vs $3.78Billion estimated; Income of $1.10/share vs $1.04/share estimated; Subscribers at 4.4Million vs 4.1Million estimated. RIM also shipped 10.1Million units during the quarter, including a milestone generating 75Millionth.

Seems the analyst talk of RIM's mighty fall via the dual-pronged iPhone/Android sword will have to wait for the time being as the folks from Waterloo can pop the bubbly for at least another quarter as going into the Christmas season the guidance RIM provided was very strong. Revenue of $4.3Billion vs $4.11Billion and EPS of $1.27/share vs $1.12.

So, with RIM so firmly positioned, what's wrong with the company and why isn't it a must own in the growing smart-phone industry? Two main reasons: Interfacing and Extensibility.

In interface design RIM is not even close to the same league as Apple, let alone the various flavours of Android that are appearing in the market-place. The company has such a culture entrenched in the corporate world that functionality for the consumer has always seemed like an after-thought with the current incarnations of the BlackBerry OS. This was most evident in both versions of the touch screen device Storm that the company debuted to scolding and muted critical response.

In regards to extensibility its hard to call RIM's platform a leader in any sense of the world. Its BlackBerry App World platform is another after-thought and in the days of the highly successful iPhone/iPod Touch AppStore, being an afterthought is just about being dead in the water. While Android is still nowhere near Apple's 100,000 applications catalog, it is getting there with over 16,000 available for various handsets. In this race RIM is already well-behind.

But there is a silver lining, the company makes very good looking hardware, for the most part, and is a staple in the corporate world, which is a business that isn't going anywhere and will grow with the rise of smart-phones world wise. Prospects continue to look good, and if the engineers can get their software act together for a new version of the BlackBerry OS, it really can be a 3 pronged fight in the mobile space for the decade to come, and that kind of potential will have analysts and investors eager to jump on board.

Disclosure: Author does not hold any position in RIMM, is long AAPL, GOOG

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