RIM beats expectations with powerful BlackBerry shipments

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) surpassed analyst expectations with hefty BlackBerry shipments and profits in its most recent quarter, results that--at least for now--serve to counter worries over the company's strategic position in the smartphone market.

"We are pleased to report another record quarter with strong growth in shipments of BlackBerry smartphones leading to record revenue, subscriber additions and earnings. RIM's business continues to grow and diversify as BlackBerry adoption accelerates in markets around the world," said Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO at Research In Motion.

Perhaps RIM's most notable quarterly figure was 14.2 million--the number of BlackBerrys the company shipped during the period, a figure that grew 40 percent over the same quarter last year. (RIM said it expects to ship 14.5 to 15 million BlackBerry units in its next quarter.) RIM's BlackBerry shipment numbers likely are a particular point of pride for the company; (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple CEO Steve Jobs called out RIM during Apple's third quarter earnings conference call, noting that Apple shipped 14.1 million iPhones and therefore surpassed the 12.1 million BlackBerrys RIM sold in its second quarter. With BlackBerry shipments of 14.2 million in its most recent quarter, RIM managed to pass Apple's iPhone 4-powered high point.

RIM's BlackBerry shipments could have been helped by the company's new Torch device, which carries its refreshed BlackBerry 6 operating system. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) began selling the device in August. During the company's quarterly conference call, Balsillie said Torch sales have been "excellent," but did not give specific figures.

Balsillie also gave a brief glimpse into RIM's activities with Verizon, which have come under scrutiny recently given Verizon's strong support of Android phones like the Droid X and Droid Incredible. Balsillie said RIM expects to ship a number of new devices through Verizon, the nation's largest wireless carrier, and that it will upgrade a number of existing Verizon BlackBerrys to the new BlackBerry 6 operating system.

And as for next year in the United States? "I feel great about where we're sitting with the carriers in North America," Balsillie said.

RIM's revenue in its most recent quarter clocked in at $5.49 billion, up 19 percent from the previous quarter and up 40 percent from the same quarter of last year. The company's net income was $911.1 million, up from the $796.7 million it recorded in the prior quarter and the $628.4 million RIM posted in the same quarter last year. The figures generally exceeded Wall Street expectations.

In the coming quarter, RIM forecast revenue of $5.5 billion to $5.7 billion.

RIM's stock gained around 2 percent on the news, to around $61.30 per share.

But concerns over RIM remain. The company continues to be dogged by worries over increasing competition in the market, particular from Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform. BlackBerry critics argue the company's smartphone platform appears aged next to the likes of high-end Android smartphones. Possibly in reaction, RIM has confirmed it plans to eventually replace its existing BlackBerry operating system with QNX software, which powered RIM's forthcoming PlayBook tablet.

During the company's quarterly conference call, Balsillie said RIM has witnessed a groundswell of interest in the PlayBook among enterprise users. The company expects to begin selling a WiFi-only version of the gadget early next year (near the end of the first quarter), and also plans to introduce a PlayBook with cellular connections at some point in the future.

RIM was the fifth largest handset maker--smart or not--in the third quarter, according to Strategy Analytics, with a 3.8 percent of the market.

For more:
- see this RIM release
- see this Cnet article
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this Reuters article

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