Phone rivalry drives down RIM earnings

TORONTO (AP) — BlackBerry maker Research In Motion reported a sharp drop in net income and revenue on Thursday and said it sold far fewer tablet computers than it expected. Shares plummeted more than 19 percent as the crisis at the once high-flying tech company intensified.

The results show continued struggle to compete with the iPhone and smartphones running Google's Android system and raise the pressure for the company's long-promised new phone software to be a hit.

RIM said Thursday that its net income was 419 million, or 80 cents per share, in the three months ended Aug. 27. That's down from $796.7 million, or $1.46 per share, a year ago. Analysts expected 90 cents per share, according to a survey by FactSet.

The company, based in Waterloo, Ontario, said revenue fell 15 percent to $4.2 billion.

Shares hit a fresh new five-year low, falling $5.74, or 19.4 percent, to $23.80 in after-hours trading. RIM's stock has lost more than half its value this year.

Although BlackBerrys have dominated the corporate smartphone market, their popularity in the consumer market has been short-lived. U.S. consumers have moved on to phones with big touchscreens like Apple Inc.'s iPhone and various models that run Google Inc.'s Android operating system.

"They are just not selling. They are not competitive," said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York. "They are getting really hit hard by Android phones."

Misek said RIM's future depends on it releasing new BlackBerrys with the company's new QNX operating system, designed to compete with iPhones and Android phones. RIM has previously vowed to release phones with that software in early 2012.

"They need them out as soon as possible. They need to be good, and they need to be well received by consumers," he said. "If they are not, they will be in a lot of trouble. It will be very difficult to envision a turnaround if they do not get those out as soon as possible."

RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis joined the analysts' conference calling following the release, the second time in as many quarters that he has participated after not doing so in recent memory. He said the company won't rush the QNX phones. He added that prototype phones will be out in the not-too-distant future and said RIM plans announcements about the phones at a conference in October.

He expects the higher-end QNX phones will be selling a year from now but said they won't represent the majority of the phones the company sells because the cheaper BlackBerry 7 models will still be selling globally.

"We understand that the past few quarters have been challenging," Lazaridis said. "We are confident that we are on track to return to growth in Q3 and beyond."

RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the company shipped fewer BlackBerrys than expected in the quarter because people awaited the launch of the new BlackBerry 7 smartphones, which didn't come out until the end of the quarter. The company said shipments of the BlackBerry 7 were "near the high end of our expectations" in three weeks on the market but didn't offer specifics.

The BlackBerry 7 devices don't have the QNX software.

The Playbook tablet computer was a major disappointment. RIM said it sold about 200,000 of them in the quarter. That was far short of what analysts had expected.

Lazaridis acknowledged it was "well below where we would like it to be" but said ultimately it will be a success in a market that is in its infancy and rapidly growing.

"We're planning to launch a major software upgrade for PlayBook which will deliver highly anticipated new capabilities and applications which we expect to reinvigorate sales," Balsillie said.

RIM's tablet, like many others, remains in the shadow of Apple's iPad.

"Apple sells more iPads in two days than RIM sells in a whole quarter," BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said.

Gillis said RIM is too busy talking about their next generation phones when they should be trying to sell their current models. He said the gap is widening between RIM and their competitors and said it might be time to find new management.

"There is just so much that seems so haphazard about the company right now," Gillis said.

RIM said in July it would cut 10 percent of its work force, about 2,000 jobs.

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