A pretty troubling set of numbers out for RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) today. The Canada-based handset maker says that it has only shipped 200,000 PlayBook tablets, and sales in BlackBerry smartphones were dismal, too: the company has sold only 10.6 million handsets, well short of original estimates of 11.9 million.
The financial numbers weren’t much prettier: revenue during the quarter was $4.2 billion, a 10 percent drop from the prior year and a 15 percent drop from last quarter. Analysts had been expecting the company to post revenue of $4.47 billion. And excluding special items–such as restructuring costs incurred during the quarter–earnings per share were $0.80, well below a consensus estimate of $0.87 as polled by *Yahoo* Finance.
The Playbook numbers are certainly disappointing, and there was no mention of sell-through, or the number of tablets actually sold to consumers or businesses as opposed to distribution partners. But the BlackBerry numbers are more troubling although not surprising: RIM sold 14 million BlackBerry devices in its fourth quarter last year, and it is now forecasting that it will sell about that many for the upcoming quarter, a forecast that depends heavily on the company’s ability to get people to buy the new BlackBerry 7 handsets it recently introduced. It will have to sell those phones against a new iPhone and several new Android phones, to boot.
RIM’s stock plunged 8 percent in after-hours trading leading up to a conference call with financial analysts.
On the call, co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that the company was pleased with the BlackBerry 7 launch, which it expects to propel its handset shipments to a 27 percent or even 37 percent increase in the upcoming quarter, which would indeed be quite a feat. BlackBerry subscribers hit 70 million during the quarter, a 40 percent increase compared to last year. It sounds like much of that growth is coming outside the U.S., with Balsillie emphasizing Latin America and Asia as growth areas for the company.
It also sounds like RIM is getting ready to finally release the software update that will bring additional capabilities to the Playbook such as Android apps, which Balsillie said would “reinvigorate” sales. (I’m having trouble remembering when they were vigorous.) One thing that will probably help are price cuts, not through the traditional means but through programs like rebates and incentives for business customers to take a closer look at the Playbook.
And it doesn’t seem that there will be any changes made to the timeline for RIM’s QNX-based BlackBerry phones, which are still expected early next year. Some analysts think RIM might be rushing phones based on the new operating system to recoup some of the mindshare it has lost among U.S. phone consumers, but RIM didn’t tip its hand.