RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook to run Android apps

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) said its forthcoming BlackBerry PlayBook will run applications for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, confirming a Bloomberg report from February.

The handset maker said it will launch two optional "app players" that provide an application run-time environment for BlackBerry Java apps and apps for version 2.3, or Gingerbread, of Android. The app players will allow users to download BlackBerry Java apps and Android apps from RIM's BlackBerry App World and run them on the PlayBook. Additionally, RIM will soon release the native SDK for the PlayBook, enabling C/C++ application development on the BlackBerry Tablet OS.

RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie said on the company's earnings conference call that the company is adding support for Android to ensure that there is a "tonnage of apps" for users, according to Business Insider. However, he said anyone who wants to create high-performance apps should develop for QNX.

RIM will start selling a Wi-Fi-only version of the PlayBook April 19 for a base price of $499. RIM also said this week it will eventually sell the tablet through both Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), capping a trifecta of U.S. carrier partnerships that began with a deal announced in January for a WiMAX version of the gadget for Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S).   

News of RIM's move toward Android coincided with the release of the company's quarterly results. RIM reported increases in its revenues and profits in its fiscal fourth quarter but warned of expanded sales of cheaper devices in the coming quarter, as well as plans to increase spending in research and development and marketing related to its PlayBook tablet and platform. The company's shares slumped in late trading after the announcement.

During the quarter, RIM shipped around 14.9 million BlackBerry smartphones for a total of 52.3 million smartphones during its fiscal 2011. The annual shipment figure is 43 percent above what the company shipped in its fiscal 2010. Balsillie described the weak outlook as temporary as RIM continues to transform its business.

"We believe the launch of new handsets beginning in Q2 and into the second half of the year, as well as the positive halo from the PlayBook launch, (will provide) an opportunity for improved growth in North America," he said, according to Reuters. He also said RIM expects to shift its smartphones to QNX software in early 2012.

RIM's revenue in its fourth quarter clocked in at $5.6 billion, up 1 percent from its previous quarter and up 36 percent from the $4.1 billion the company reported in the same quarter of last year. RIM's net income for the quarter was $934 million, up from the $911 million it reported in the prior quarter and up significantly from the $710 million it posted in the same quarter last year.

RIM said it expects to report revenue in its coming quarter of between $5.2 billion and $5.6 billion. The company said it expects its gross margin to be 41.5 percent.

"This guidance range reflects a mix shift in handsets towards lower ASP (average selling price) products in the first quarter and an increased level of investment in research and development and sales and marketing related to our tablet and platform initiatives," the company said of its first-quarter guidance. "The guidance range is slightly wider than normal to reflect the risk of potential disruption in RIM's supply chain as a result of the recent earthquake in Japan."

For more:
- see this RIM earnings release
- see this RIM PlayBook release
- see these three separate articles from Business Insider
see this AllThingsD article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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Phil Goldstein contributed to this report.