By Monica Alleven
On the same day that headlines blared about long lines for Apple’s new iPhone 4, Research In Motion (RIM) was tasked with sharing its first-quarter financial results, which were somewhat of a mixed bag.
RIM shares fell in after-hours trading on Thursday after the BlackBerry maker reported lower-than-expected revenue. Analysts were expecting revenue of $4.35 billion, but revenue was $4.24 billion, which was still up from the $3.42 billion reported in the same quarter last year.
The company managed to ship about 11.2 million devices in the first quarter and added about 4.9 million net new BlackBerry subscriber accounts, a couple key points that co-CEO Jim Balsillie mentioned in a conference call with analysts.
Asked about competition in the smartphone market and the alignment of AT&T with Apple and Verizon Wireless and Sprint with Android, Balsillie warned about making assumptions. In other words, don’t sell RIM short; it has a history of innovation and experience with distribution and carrier partnerships, and while he stopped short of getting into too many details about upcoming product launches, he promised some surprises ahead – in fact, a “quantum leap over anything that’s out there.”
“I wish I could wind the clock forward a few weeks,” he said. “When you see the pieces come together, you’ll say, ‘Now I see what they were doing’ … I can’t say much more but I couldn’t feel better.”
Products with BlackBerrry 6.0 are coming this year, but it’s unclear exactly when. For the second quarter, the company expects shipments between 4.9 million and 5.2 million, but executives said it’s hard to forecast because of the timing of the new product launches that are due at the end of the second quarter and near the start of the third quarter.
In prepared remarks, Balsillie touched on marketing campaigns that U.S. carriers have done or will do to support BlackBerry product launches. Verizon Wireless in July will be running a campaign to support the launch of the CDMA Bold 9650. Sprint has introduced a BlackBerry through its Virgin Mobile prepaid brand, and T-Mobile USA is doing ad and marketing campaigns. AT&T’s new tiered pricing allows for BlackBerries on lower plans than some competing smartphones. RIM itself plans to continue driving awareness in the second quarter with a significant advertising campaign for BlackBerry Messenger in its top 12 markets in North America.
While enterprises are still holding onto their BlackBerries, he also said the company is working to integrate Twitter, Facebook and other social networking apps even further into the platform than already exists. He also said the company is working closely with the developer community with events like a Super Apps Developer Challenge with rewards for creating highly engaging apps.
RIM’s profit increased in the first quarter as well. Net income for the first quarter was $768.9 million compared with net income of $710.1 million in the prior quarter. Net income in the same quarter last year was $643 million.
Revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 ending Aug. 28 is expected to be in the range of $4.4 billion to $4.6 billion.