Same old, same old expected from RIM under new CEO

Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:47pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion RIM.TO is likely to prove this week that it's much easier to install a new chief executive than it is to turn around a struggling company in his first quarter at the helm.

Most investors and analysts aren't expecting much improvement from the company that makes the BlackBerry smartphone and the PlayBook tablet since Thorsen Heins replaced Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in January.

Indeed, most have their sights set low, both for the quarter that ended March 3 and the outlook for the current three-month period. Little joy is expected at least until RIM launches its make-or-break next-generation phones later in the year.

"It's going to be a weak quarter," said JMP Securities analyst Alex Gauna. "It's going to continue to amplify fears" that RIM will at some point find itself spending more than it's making, he said. "I'm not sure they lose money this quarter, but I think it'll signal that that's the ultimate trajectory."

Heins has inherited a difficult situation to say the least. The smartphone maker's shares have tanked in the past year in the face of intense competition, a string of profit warnings, a service outage and the stumbling launch of the PlayBook a year ago.

Canada's RIM, which mastered mobile email early and once dominated out-of-office corporate communication, has struggled to match Apple's iPhone and an army of devices using Google's Android operating system, both of which first won over consumers and now increasingly impinge on RIM's base of corporate users.

The drum beat of bad news was unlikely to have slowed in the Christmas period, analysts warned, despite heavy U.S. marketing to promote the latest BlackBerry phones and a software upgrade and sharp discounts for its poor-selling PlayBook tablet.