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RIM's Berry Bad News: Can BlackBerry Bounce Back?

The BlackBerry maker looks pretty bruised this morning after announcing yesterday that its first-quarter earnings were below expectations and that it was lowering its outlook for the second quarter. As a result, RIM's stock plummeted 15 percent in after-hours trading. On the plus side, the company sold 500,000 BlackBerry PlayBook tablets, which is better than the 360,000 forecast by analysts. However, BlackBerry phone sales have fallen year over year, and the company continues to lose market share to Apple and Google's Android OS.

RIM also announced that it would be making layoffs and that the COO is taking a leave of absence. Add in delays for the 4G PlayBook, which has now slipped from the summer to the fall, and you have a very steep uphill climb. Can RIM recover?

Based on what we saw at BlackBerry World, it doesn't look as though BlackBerry OS 7 handsets such as the Bold 9900 and 9930 will have that much of an impact. But co-CEO Mike Laziridis seemed fairly confident that these new devices will be competitive when they start shipping this August. OS 7 will feature a better browser, Liquid Graphics touchscreen support for smoother performance, voice-activated search, and the ability to better manage personal content separately from corporate content.

These touch-friendly Bolds do look improved over today's offerings, and it doesn't hurt that they're super slim. But RIM smartphones based on its more advanced QNX platform—the same OS that powers the PlayBook—won't be available until the first quarter of 2012. Between now and then, we'll see iOS 5 and the next iPhone launch, the first Android devices with Ice Cream Sandwich, and Windows Phone 7 Mango devices hitting shelves.

On the PlayBook front, RIM's slate is still missing native e-mail and calendar clients, not to mention 3G or 4G connectivity. But we do like the underlying software. It's just not evolving fast enough or hitting phones soon enough.

Some analysts are saying that RIM needs to put one person in charge instead of having co-CEOs, but I don't think that's keeping the company from executing. Regardless, RIM will need to prove that OS 7 represents a meaningful upgrade over OS 6 to keep BlackBerry customers coming back. Or the exodus to Android and iOS will only accelerate.

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