The Mobile Lowdown 05-03-11: RIM Balsillie; Mobile Gaming; HTC; More


Our look at some of the big stories in mobile today: Balsillie takes on marketing at RIM; (NSDQ: RIMM) a new mobile gaming forum breaks ground; HTC reports strong results but gets a downgrade from analysts; and an ex-Admob exec joins a new mobile voucher startup.

RIM: The announcements are coming in thick and fast from BlackBerry World this week in Orlando, from new products to new apps (Facebook and video calling for the PlayBook among them), and now it looks like we know who to praise — or blame — for how RIM spreads its news.

Jim Balsillie, the co-CEO and co-Chairman of the company, has now also been appointed its CMO, reports the Financial Post.

When Keith Pardy in March resigned from the role of CMO just ahead of the launch of the company’s first tablet, the PlayBook, RIM cited personal reasons for the departure. At the time, there was no replacement lined up. The company’s recent knocks would pose a challenge for any executive: downgraded forecasts on declines in demand, and lukewarm responses to the PlayBook tablet, and product delays are going to give Balsillie a run for his money.

Mobile gaming: A new group, the Mobile Gaming Forum, has been set up by the Association for Interactive Media & Entertainment (AIME) to promote self-regulation in the areas of mobile gaming and mobile transactions. AIME says the group will focus on areas like increasing consumer confidence in premium-rate micropayments, a business that has faced some controvery over its practices in the past, and will likely face even more scrutiny as more people use smartphones for games and other forms of “transactional” entertainent (think votes for TV shows here).

HTC: The Taiwan-based smartphone maker HTC reported a nearly-threefold rise in handset shipments for Q1 — 9.7 million units — and said it expected similarly strong growth in Q2, projecting shipments of 11.5 million units in Q2, as it reported net profits for Q1 of NT$14.83 billion ($519 million), nearly triple the net profit from the same quarter one year ago. Nevertheless, analysts are downgrading the stock for the moment, on fears of increasing competition and the impact that will have on HTC’s pricing and subsequent margins. HTC’s average selling price for Q1 declined slightly to $359, a decline of one percent on Q4 2010; and it saw a similar decline in its gross margin, which was 29.3 percent, compared to 30 percent the quarter before.

Russell Buckley: A strong executive appointment in the mobile payments space that perhaps underscores the attention and growth that we will see in this area in the months and years ahead. Russell Buckley — the ex-VP of alliances and the “first employee” at Admob, the big mobile advertising network now owned by Google (NSDQ: GOOG) — is now the CMO of Eagle Eye Solutions, an UK-based mobile voucher redemption company.

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