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RIM Faces Analyst Concerns Over Smartphone Delays

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Several financial analysts have warned that RIM is facing BlackBerry and QNX smartphone delays

It is proving to be a tough time for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, as it prepares to report first-quarter earnings later this week, amid reports of more missed deadlines.

RIM said it expects to report Q1 earnings of between $1.30 (£0.79) and $1.37 (£0.84) a share on revenue below $5.2 billion (£3.2bn).

However, financial analysts believe RIM, which already said it expects to sell 1 million fewer BlackBerry handsets for this quarter, is missing deadlines for its new BlackBerry handset and may not release smartphones based on its QNX operating system before the second half of 2012.

Bold Delay

Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek said the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 is likely to be delayed until after August, with other phones based on the BlackBerry OS 7 likely to come out closer to year end. The so-called QNX “superphone” launch is likely to be pushed to the second half of 2012.

Product delays in conjunction with the steadily declining market share in the United States led Susquehanna Research analyst Jeffrey Fidacaro to argue that RIM could be headed for an even worse second half of 2011 as it would conceivably pit RIM against the iPhone 5, as well as 4G Android devices.

BlackBerry smartphone share ranked third behind iOS with 25.7 percent share through April, down from 27 percent in March and 28.9 percent through February, comScore said last week.

Meanwhile, RIM’s Bold 9990/9930 will be pushed back to September from its original summer launch date, according to Boy Genius Report.

Unveiled at BlackBerry World last month as the first BlackBerry OS 7 smartphone, the Bold 9900 underwhelmed mobile experts and analysts comparing to the iPhone and Android handsets with speedy processors and big, crisp displays for multimedia consumption.

The device, which combines a touchscreen display with the signature BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard, is one of several BlackBerry OS 7 handsets RIM anticipates rolling out as a bridge to the so-called superphones it is building based on QNX, the OS acquired by RIM and employed in the PlayBook tablet.

Citigroup analyst Jim Suva’s own research reveals similar delays, noting that the Bold 9900 may miss the back-to-school buying period due to production delays.

“Thus far our supply chain checks show that RIM’s new models have not yet been certified by major wireless carriers and are not in mass production which concerns us,” analyst Jim Suva wrote in a research note obtained by Reuters 9 June.

Other Pressures

Further pressuring RIM this year are the emergence of low-cost Android handsets in emerging markets RIM has been strong in, as well as Apple’s new iMessage service, an alternative to BlackBerry Messenger.

To wit, Fidacaro seriously doubts RIM’s most recent $7.50 (£4.59) earnings per share target for fiscal year 2012.

“As it currently stands, we believe it is simply a matter of time until management capitulates on its $7.50 EPS target for FY12 based on volume expectations and absent major buybacks or other financial actions since its sales trends have deteriorated and QNX devices may come too little too late,” Fidacaro added in his 9 June research note.

Gleacher & Co. Stephen Patel said he still believes the Bold 9900 and a full-touch BlackBerry have a shot at an August launch, dependent on final bug fixing and accelerated carrier certifications. Patel also believes QNX-based handsets are a minimum of 9 months away.

Too Little, Too Late?

Still, he said he remains more concerned that RIM’s new phones will not be enough stem US share loss and continue international growth.

“Apple’s iMessage in iOS 5 makes BBM less of a differentiator and other iCloud services make it tougher to close the user experience gap,” Patel said in a research note 9 June. “In addition, we think AT&T will push Windows Phone more strongly this year, potentially at the expense of BlackBerry marketing.”

Moreover, he said the US government, which has typically issued its workers BlackBerry smartphones, is now increasingly allowing iPhones and Android handsets in the workplace.