BlackBerry is NOT dead; Noah gets dome buffed

Noah Kravitz
 from Oakland, CA
Published: September 21, 2010

Last week I was supposed to appear on CNBC's "Street Signs" show to talk about BlackBerry. The segment was part of a slew of RIM-related content the network was running leading up to the company's earnings call. I was all set at the studio, in my fancy suit jacket with Torch in hand, wired for sound, and even getting my head buffed (seriously - to reduce the shine on the thing), and listening to Jim Cramer telling everyone to sell RIM stock and buy more Apple instead, as the iPad was about to go international and send shares of APPL even higher.

Then the lights went out. Or at least the fiberoptic cable did, severing the connection between the studio in San Francisco and CNBC command control in New Jersey. And the show went on without me. At least I got this neato pic of my head being dusted!

Anyway, I chalked it up to technical difficulties, left the studio, and went back to my normal work day (eating bonbons by the pool, basically). The next morning I remembered the whole RIM earnings call thing, and ... WHOA!

RIM (RIMM as the stock is known) outperformed market estimates, earning $1.46 per share during Q2 2010, which bested both O2 2009's mark of $1.03/share and analyst expectations of $1.35/share. RIMM also bested revenue estimates, with $4.62 billion in sales during the quarter - up from $3.53 billion one year ago, and beating the $4.4 billion estimates. This all according to Thomson Reuters by way of AllthingsD.

In tech-nerd terms, the company shipped 45% more BlackBerrys than during the same quarter last year, and its subscriber base grew 56% year over year. RIM now counts more than 50 million CrackBerryHeads running around out there. 

And the "guidance" (a fancy money word for predictions, I think) for next quarter is even better. Way up, way above expectations, way awesome.

So what gives? Everyone keeps talking about the Death of BlackBerry, and how the Torch is too slow and the competition has caught up in terms of messaging while still maintaining a lead when it comes to consumer appeal. I was even squaking about developers early this week when a straw poll taking during AppNation indicated that coders don't have much interest in anything not called Android or iOS.

The numbers don't lie, though (unless they're made up, I guess). RIM may have lost a wee bit of U.S. smartphone platform marketshare in ComScore's July 2010 reports, but they also gained half a point on the overall OEM scene. So they're actually doing alright - more than alright. Right?

Yeah, for now they are. I still think they need a Hero product, a super high tech whiz bang knock your socks off smartphone that the Torch just isn't. I like BB OS 6 and I like the concept behind Torch. And in theory the new WebKit browser answers the number one complaint I hear from BlackBerry users thinking about jumping ship: "The Web browser sucks." But Torch just isn't quite fast or smooth enough to compete with the latest Android and iOS devices when it comes to pure power and smartphone speed.

Still, while we keep hearing about executives talking their IT departments into letting them use iPhones at work, and new Android releases that feature more enterprise support, the fact of the matter seems to be that BlackBerry still rules the roost. Could be that more people are buying their own "second phone" for personal use while their employer upgrades their "work BlackBerry" for office duty. Could be that for all the bells and whistles afforded by apps and widgets, people still want their BBM access and hard QWERTY boards. Could be that RIM's install base is just so massive that a seachange is well under way but it'll just take a little while longer to adversely affect the bottom line.

I'll be keeping an eye on RIM's OEM and smartphone platform marketshares over the coming months, especially if/when AT&T's iPhone exclusivity runs out. And I'll also be keeping an eye out for a BlackBerry that's truly worthy of competing against those Hummingbird and Snapdragon-powered Android beasts. 

What say you? Is RIMs decline inevitable, or does the money tell the real story here, the story of BlackBerry continuing to be an addictive force of nature that's millions strong and growing?

Products mentioned