RIM delays QNX-based BlackBerry smartphones until late 2012

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Research In Motion has announced that its QNX-based smartphones have been delayed until late 2012 -- well after its originally slated first quarter unveiling. The news came during an investor call last night and marks the latest in a string of upsets for the apologetic handset maker. "We ask for your patience and confidence," said co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.

In addition to revealing its BlackBerry 10 setback, RIM said it would ship only 11 to 12 million smartphones during the year's busiest shopping quarter -- an estimate that would represent the company's first sequential decline during the holiday period in six years. It sold 14.1 million in the previous quarter and 14.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

This, of course, is on top of the BlackBerry PlayBook's failure. RIM shipped a meager 150,000 tablets during the third quarter and recently announced that it would eat a $485 million charge for unsold slates. However, unlike HP, it sounds like RIM is sticking to its guns -- for better or worse. "While we preferred to have the initial launch be smoother, I still believe it's the most secure and advanced tablet in the market today," said Lazaridis.

PlayBook apps will work on the company's QNX smartphones, so the tablet is providing incentive to build an ecosystem for RIM's future devices. At least that appears to be the company's logic. RIM noted that the tablet market is still in its infancy and that it remains confident in the PlayBook because people are finally starting to buy them. However, that's likley because of the recent price cuts, which can't be leaving much room for profit.

Ironically, one has to wonder whether the company's commitment to the PlayBook is partially responsible for the delay of its upcoming smartphones. In which case, it's potentially causing more harm than good. To be fair, few companies outside Apple and Amazon have experienced anything that can be deemed success in the tablet business. Fed up with their fruitless efforts, PC makers are reportedly refocusing their resources to Ultrabooks.

RIM reported earnings of $265 million for its fiscal third quarter, down from $911 million in the year-ago quarter. That includes the nearly half a billion pre-tax writedown on its PlayBook and a $54 million charge for the service outage it suffered in October. Revenue fell 6% to $5.17 billion. Despite those grim figures, the company's subscribership reached 75 million users in the latest quarter, up from 70 million in the second quarter.

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