As I write this, Kevin, Adam, Bla1ze, and Simon have either just arrived or en route to Toronto, which will be ground zero for CrackBerry HQ as we work up to the launch of BlackBerry 10.
So the timing seems right to talk about the huge comeback that BlackBerry and parent company Research In Motion are making. And I'm talking about both on the stock market and in the media. The stock market is often thought of as a predictor of the future, whereas the media is usually all about reporting what already happened. So for RIM to be scoring in both camps is a nice change of pace for CrackBerry Nation.
Let's look at the stock market first. RIM stock hit lows in the mid $6 range back in September and October. Ever since, the stock has been climbing in a huge way. It hit $14 before announcing its latest quarterly results, briefly fell back down on service revenue concerns, but quickly recovered and hit new highs. This past week has been another good one for shareholders, as RIM trades at almost $16 now.
Why did the stock drop so hard in the first place? Because investors have been worried, and I mean really worried, about the pending death of BlackBerry. The brand has been bleeding subscribers in the US market, discounting hardware, losing money on the income statement, laying off staff, and feeling carrier pressure on service revenues. If you wanted to write something purely negative on RIM, there was no shortage of material.
Over the last couple of months we've seen a lot of big progress on BlackBerry 10. We're seeing more optimistic headlines in the media. We're seeing developers pour thousands of new apps into BlackBerry World. The new CMO, Frank Boulben, was quoted by FierceWireless as saying BlackBerry 10 will support roughly 90% of the top 600 apps in major markets. Presumably he means apps that exist on Android and iOS.
This is all very good news. We are getting really close to the launch of BlackBerry 10. Canadian carriers have already had to increase their pre-order volume because they've sold out. We know the new hardware will sport a higher sticker price, enabling RIM to make money on handsets again. All of this will help the financials.
Yet analyst estimates for fiscal 2014 (ends February) haven't really changed that much. 3 months ago the average EPS estimate was a loss of $0.54. Today it sits at that same value. The stock has experienced a huge rally but analysts still have to follow through with estimate changes. Either that, or the stock has a long way to fall if BB10 ends up being a fizzle rather than the huge recovery we think it's shaping up to be. Obviously it all comes down to sales, which we'll have to wait to see. My point is this - there's a huge disconnect between the current stock price and the analyst estimates for next year.
If the media headlines are any indication, the sales are going to be there. The media moves in a pack, and it's pretty clear that RIM isn't getting kicked in the gut anymore. They're being praised, congratulated, and cheered for.
The stars seem to be aligning for RIM. Remember how they had to delay the launch of BlackBerry 10 to this quarter? What if it came out in the fall as was previously expected? It would have been buried under news. Though unrelated to tech, events like the U.S. Presidential race and Hurricane Sandy absolutely consumed the media, especially in the United States. Both the iPad Mini and Windows Phone 8 launched in this time period, and both received less than would be expected attention from the mainstream media. Had BlackBerry 10 launched then too, it likely would have been in the same camp. Maybe this delay was a blessing in disguise? There is virtually nothing happening in terms of competitive rollouts right now. Even CES was quiet on the the mobile front. BlackBerry 10 has the headlines all to themselves.
Remember when pundits said that BlackBerry 10 would be too late? Even Windows Phone 8 would beat it to market, meaning that RIM would have no chance. Hmm, how did that work out? Windows Phone is getting practically no attention at all despite all of Microsoft's advertising bucks. Over the past two weeks carriers have become very vocal about their support for BlackBerry 10, and leaks are confirming that this will be a well-supported by carriers globally. The inability of Windows Phone to gain traction is a benefit to BlackBerry.
I was talking with Kevin yesterday before he jumped on the plane to Toronto. He told me something that I found interesting. Several big news outlets have been contacting him recently. Usually they'll contact him for interviews or quotes. But this time they just want to make sure they understand what's happening because they know they'll need to write about it. They're calling to get educated.
When was the last time the media was busy preparing themselves to write about a good news story on RIM? I honestly can't remember. It seems like so long ago.
How about I end this post by congratulating everyone at RIM. There were layoffs, and there were people who quit for what they saw as greener pastures. But most of you loyal employees have stuck with BlackBerry and done a lot of hard work to get to this point. You didn't throw in the towel. Things got ugly for a while. But now I can only imagine it's come full circle. RIM is a fun place to work again.
We are SO ready for your comeback, BlackBerry.