September 14, 2010 / 6:44 PM / in 7 years

RIM needs a big quarter to win back investors

TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion will need strong shipment numbers for its latest quarter and a robust outlook for the current three months to dispel the growing naysayer sentiment that has hammered its share price.

<p>Mike Lazaridis, founder and co-chief executive of Research In Motion (RIM), introduces the new BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone at a news conference in New York in this August 3, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>

RIM won’t get much immediate help from its latest smartphone, the BlackBerry Torch, which went on sale in the United States on August 12, giving it only a few weeks to show up in global unit numbers.

Investors will instead parse the Canadian company’s guidance for clues to how well the device is faring ahead of a wider rollout.

“A lot of people are stepping back and trying to figure out -- given the timeline it’s probably a tough call for this quarter,” said Matthew Thornton from Avian Securities. “The overwhelming opinion is looking for evidence of cracks.”

The Canadian company is also expected to update the market on plans for a tablet device that will join a suddenly congested market chasing Apple’s iPad. RIM has hinted that its tablet will make its debut some time this year.

The Torch, which couples a touchscreen with a slide-out keyboard and runs a revamped operating system, is designed to appeal to consumers, as well as Blackberry’s core base of business professionals.

But analysts have been either mildly dismissive or only moderately excited by the new model. Morgan Stanley, which recently downgraded the stock, estimates RIM sold 80,000 Torches a week and shipped a total of 600,000.

By comparison, Apple says it had 600,000 pre-orders ahead of its iPhone 4 launch and sold more than 3 million in the three weeks after its June launch.

RIM has hoped the Torch would help turn around the bearish sentiment surrounding the company but the device may have had the opposite effect.

The fading smartphone star no longer has a lock on its core audience, while it still lacks a runaway consumer success like the iPhone or the surging popularity of smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system.

“Whether they can compete against Apple, whether they can compete against Android, those are the two big issues,” said Duncan Stewart, head of technology research at Deloitte Canada.

Corporations are increasing allowing employees to use their own smartphone rather than a company-issued BlackBerry, according to a Bernstein survey.

A Gartner forecast predicts the Android operating system -- used by a slew of device-makers including Motorola, Samsung, HTC> and others -- will push

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