Research in Motion (RIM) is trying to build expectations ahead of the upcoming launch of several new handsets running BlackBerry 7, the next release of its mobile operating system (OS).
The Canadian phone manufacturer announced late July, via the company's official Twitter page, that "... new #BlackBerry devices are coming w/ our new OS, BlackBerry 7! Check back tmrw 4 deets on #BB7FanNight."
This follows the announcement made in slightly more formal terms by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, at the company's annual general shareholder meeting that no fewer than seven new devices with the new OS would be coming onto the market over the next few months.
However, on the same occasion, he also confirmed a delay in the release of BlackBerry 7.
Little information is available about what the new handset models will be, but it is a fairly safe bet that the Bold 9900 and 9930 will be among their number. These two devices were announced back in May and were supposed to be available worldwide at the beginning of the summer. At the time, co-CEO Mike Lazardis said that the Bold smartphone would "jump a generation" technologically with its next release.
The company knows that its future depends on how well these new phones and the new operating system are received, as the mobile OS market today is largely dominated by Apple's iOS and Google's Android, with Microsoft's Windows Phone platform also looking set to make an impact, especially once it starts running on Nokia devices.
Once a must-have device, the BlackBerry has seen its sales fall in recent years to the point where it has slipped quite far behind those of the iPhone and various Android handsets. Between April and June, for instance, Apple sold 20.3 million iPhones in the United States, compared to the 13.2 million BlackBerry phones sold by RIM from March to May.
This decline in sales has led to RIM slashing jobs (2,000 job cuts were recently announced as part of the company's "Cost Optimization Program") and reshuffling members of its executive team. Chief Operating Officer Don Morrison is about to retire, and he will be replaced by Jim Rowan on the operations side of the business and Thorsten Heins for products and sales. The positions of co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, who founded the company together, are also uncertain.
All of these challenges have led many analysts to reconsider their opinions on RIM. Phillip Huang of UBS recently lowered his price target on the firm from $41 to $30 and shaved more than 10% off his earnings estimate for the current fiscal year, which ends in March. Whether BlackBerry 7 will be impressive enough to turn the company's fortunes around remains to be seen.
Key Statistics - Global Smartphone Operating Systems (source: Gartner)
- RIM should hold over 13% market share for 2011, with a forecast fall to 11% market share in 2015 that would put it at near the bottom of the pile among current leaders.
- Android is at 23% market share today and should secure 49% by 2015, keeping it in number-one spot.
- Sales of open operating system (OS) devices should represent 26% of all mobile handset device sales in 2011.
- By 2015, 67% of all open OS devices are expected to sell, on average, for a maximum price of $300.