In less than a week, BlackBerry 10 will be officially unveiled. RIM stock is at 52 week highs, and lots of analysts, investors, and even the media, are jumping on board with great things to say about the turnaround in Waterloo.
When this stuff happens, analysts have to react. They either jump on the bandwagon concluding that something good is really happening, or they stick to their guns and issue a cautious report.
Jim Suva from Citigroup is in that second camp. He reiterated his sell rating on the stock just yesterday. Eric Savitz from Forbes wrote a nice little summary of Suva's report, and I thought it would be helpful to put it all in perspective rather than just report on what happened.
Citigroup's main argument is that you can't judge RIM carrier and developer support. It's easy for carriers to support BlackBerry 10, because they aren't committing a lot of money to it. That's true. Suva argues that for RIM to succeed it needs to drive big sell through of devices to end customers. That's also true. No arguments from me. At least not on those points.
Next, Suva seems worried about the emerging markets because Chinese handset vendors, like Huawei, are introducing $150 hardware running Android. This could throw a monkey wrench into BlackBerry 7 sales, and cause a drop in subscribers. He's arguing that these cheap Android phones give consumers in emerging markets another option when they go to upgrade their phone.
Of course this is true. But it's also true that RIM is looking at all options to get BlackBerry 10 into developing markets at lower price points. It's pretty obvious that if Huawei can make a $150 phone that runs Android, they could also build one on BlackBerry 10. It's not mysteriously more expensive to build a BlackBerry, should RIM license the OS to another vendor.
We discussed this back in August, when rumours were flying around that RIM might sell its hardware business. In fact, what's really happening is Thorsten Heins is looking for an easy way to penetrate the emerging markets with lower cost hardware.
I also think Suva is making a mistake by worrying about BlackBerry 7 right now. Currently RIM doesn't make any money on its hardware. So if they were to see a successful rollout of BlackBerry 10 in the USA, Canada, UK, and other developed markets, profit will rise significantly. If they see a slowdown in emerging markets, it won't really affect earnings at all (yet).
Lastly, Suva argues that enterprises will take 4-6 months to evaluate BlackBerry 10 before deploying it. That may be true. But that doesn't affect the consumer market nor the BYOD market.
Anyway, time will tell. But I think we can all agree that sales of BlackBerry 10 are going to be the ultimate indicator of success over the next year.