RIM slashes forecast on weaker BlackBerry smartphone sales

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) cut its earnings forecast for its fiscal first quarter, and said it expects smartphone sales to be at the lower end of its projected forecast for the quarter. The news likely will ratchet up tensions about the BlackBerry maker's position in the market.

RIM said that it is cutting its earnings-per-share forecast to a range of $1.30-$1.37, lower than the range of $1.47-$1.55 it had previously given in March. The company said it expects shipment volumes of BlackBerry smartphones to be at the lower end of the range of 13.5-14.5 million it had set out last month.

Further, the BlackBerry maker said it expects to ship more devices with lower average selling prices than previously expected. As a consequence, RIM said it now expects revenue for the quarter slightly below the range of $5.2-5.6 billion it had forecasted in March.

In a bit of good news, the company said its BlackBerry PlayBook shipments are meeting company expectations, and that RIM has not experienced any significant supply disruptions in the quarter due to the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The cut in RIM's outlook for the quarter comes as analysts and investors worry RIM is not doing enough to keep up with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) in smartphones. RIM expects to shift its smartphones to software from QNX, which powers the PlayBook, in early 2012. 

"All things being equal we would love to have these products earlier and not be having this call," RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, said in a conference call with investors. "Because it's such a big upgrade, it takes longer."

Balsillie said he maintains a positive long-term outlook for the company given the strength of the PlayBook and the upcoming QNX smartphones. "We have this company straight in the middle of the whole tablet mobile computing space," the RIM chief said. "And we absolutely have a whole next generation of smartphones, so strategically we feel fantastic," he added. "Operationally, I don't like the fact that this stuff is pushed out so you have this transition." 

For more:
- see this release
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

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