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    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Reuter site - RIM caps dismal year with another profit warning

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    RIM caps dismal year with another profit warning

    Fri, Dec 02 11:58 AM EST

    By Euan Rocha

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research in Motion capped an already dismal year with a steep profit warning on Friday, taking a huge charge to write down inventories on its languishing PlayBook tablet and sending its shares tumbling more than 8 percent.

    Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, the company whose ubiquitous BlackBerry virtually invented the smartphone, said it now no longer expects to meet its forecast for full-year adjusted earnings of $5.25 to $6.00 a share, due to the $360 million after-tax writedown on PlayBook inventories and a $50 million charge related to a damaging service outage in October.

    RIM launched the PlayBook to unfavorable reviews in April, making it a late arrival to a new market segment where Apple's iPad had established an overwhelming dominance.

    It slashed the price of the underwhelming device last month in an effort to drive up anemic sales. RIM sold only about 150,000 tablets in the third quarter, which ended November 26, down from 200,000 in the second quarter - a tiny fraction of the 11 million iPads that Apple sold in its latest quarter.

    "RIM is continuing to suffer from its Playbook endeavors," said CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber. "It hurt RIM initially by diverting focus, but muted demand is now becoming clearly visible in the financials."

    RIM, which launched its first BlackBerry in 1999, has rapidly fallen out of favor with investors as it struggled to keep pace in the rapidly evolving smartphone market it once pioneered.

    In recent months, Apple's iPhone and Google Android devices have gobbled up RIM's once mighty market share.

    The one-time technology darling has also been plagued with a series of product missteps and profit warnings, as well as an embarrassing global outage for its BlackBerry network in October, when customers were stranded without e-mail and the popular BlackBerry messaging service for several days.

    RIM shares fell 8.7 percent to $16.97 by late morning, and the stock is down more than 70 percent this year. Its Canadian-listed shares fell 8.4 percent to C$17.24, hovering around seven-year lows.

    The meltdown in RIM's stock price has actually prompted some analysts to raise their ratings on RIM, with Goldman Sachs contending that the current valuation already fairly captures the fundamental concerns. Speculation has also been rife that RIM could be the target of a strategic buyout.

    FULL YEAR EARNINGS

    "The severe outage in October did little for consumer confidence and undoubtedly dented sales during that time," said Blaber.

    RIM had previously forecast full-year earnings of $7.50 a share, but it backed away from that forecast in mid-June, due to product delays and lackluster sales.

    Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu said the latest cuts come as no surprise.

    "What is more worrying, of course, is the profound denial the tone of the release reflects. Although it appears obvious to us that RIM's current strategy is bound to fail rapidly, the company continues to support it vehemently," he said.

    "We can only hope that this increasing dissonance will accelerate necessary changes at the top of the company."

    Excluding the two charges, RIM now expects adjusted earnings in the third-quarter to be at the low to mid-point of its previously forecast $1.20 to $1.40 per share range.

    Revenue, excluding the outage charge, is expected to be slightly lower than the previously forecast range of $5.3 billion to $5.6 billion, in part because of the PlayBook discounting, which it plans to expand.

    RIM, which is still finalizing its quarterly results, said it shipped about 14.1 million BlackBerry phones in the third quarter, in line with its earlier forecast of between 13.5 and 14.5 million.

    The company, which will report its quarterly results on December 15, said it was confident the PlayBook promotion will help boost sales and reduce its inventories.

    "RIM is committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook," Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis said in a statement. "Early results from recent PlayBook promotions indicate a significant increase in demand across most channels."

    RIM said it expects to ship fewer smartphones in the current quarter than in the recently-ended third quarter.

    "We do not see any sign that RIM's downward spiral is about to bottom out. The company has a number of new phones on the market, yet guidance for Q4 suggests that their momentum is already starting to stall," Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey said in a note for clients.

    (Reporting By Euan Rocha and Alastair Sharp in Toronto and Tarmo Virki in Helsinki; Editing by Frank McGurty and Janet Guttsman)

    Reuter site - RIM to offer security features for iPhone, Android

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    RIM to offer security features for iPhone, Android

    Tue, Nov 29 16:54 PM EST

    By Alastair Sharp

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Research In Motion is introducing a software tool that gives corporate customers the option of linking employees' personal iPhones to the BlackBerry network without compromising security.

    The move, announced on Tuesday, is RIM's first tangible acknowledgment that it has lost its iron grip on the corporate smartphone market and must accommodate the growing preference of workers for Apple and Google's Android devices. Its battered shares jumped on the announcement.

    "It's not an admission of guilt - it's a necessary evil," Suquehanna analyst Jeff Fidacaro said.

    RIM's Mobile Fusion service is designed to give the Canadian company the leading role in managing corporate communications, whether over the BlackBerry or a rival device.

    "What our enterprise customers are looking for, and the opportunity for us, is to become the de facto platform," Alan Panezic, RIM's vice-president for enterprise product management, said in an interview ahead of the announcement.

    Taking a first, tentative step to offer its network services independently of its own devices, the company could develop a fresh source of revenue to offset a shrinking market share in handsets.

    Indeed, success with the strategy could encourage RIM to focus more and more on services rather than devices.

    RIM's often-volatile stock closed 5.4 percent higher at $17.37 on Nasdaq and up 5.5 percent at C$17.95 in Toronto. It still down more than 70 percent this year following a string of delayed or botched product launches, and disappointing quarterly results.

    RIM's BlackBerry was for years the preferred device for businesses and government agencies, who treasured its encrypted data and distributed the device to millions of workers needing secure, round-the-clock email access.

    But many workers now prefer using their own Apple and Android-powered devices to access corporate emails, raising security questions for corporations, which RIM hopes to address with the new software.

    "While a positive step, the larger challenges remain RIM's need to narrow competitive gaps in its handsets," RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky wrote in a note to clients. He pointed to RIM's software deficiencies and limited content and applications available on its devices.

    RIM's slice of the lucrative U.S. smartphone market fell to 9 percent in the third quarter, down from 24 percent a year earlier, according to research firm Canalys. Globally, the report placed RIM in fifth place, with 10 percent market share, compared with 15 percent a year earlier.

    DUE BY LATE MARCH

    Mobile Fusion, due in late March, will allow corporate information technology staff to set and monitor rules for passwords, apps and software on a range of devices, including Apple's iPad and iPhone, and smartphones using the Android operating system.

    A company can remotely lock or wipe a lost or stolen device, a key selling point for security-conscious corporations that may have been wary of shifting away from the BlackBerry.

    "We will take full advantage of whatever security capabilities are provided by the core operating system. We're not going to hold that back in any way, shape or form," Panezic said.

    Mobile Fusion will include and extend existing BlackBerry Enterprise Servers, or BES, behind corporate firewalls.

    Panezic said the software will manage RIM's PlayBook independently from a BlackBerry after the tablet - which has yet to gain traction with either businesses or consumers - receives a long-awaited software upgrade, due in February.

    He declined to give any pricing details for the Fusion service, but said it would be competitive with rivals.

    "It will help stem the tide of those companies that may have considered eliminating their BES but it won't help sell more phones," said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman. "That's what they really need to do."

    "RATTLE SOME CAGES"

    RIM has recently launched touchscreen devices using its legacy BlackBerry operating system as it works to put the QNX software powering the PlayBook on to a new generation of phones from early next year.

    The new software follows on from the acquisition of device management company Ubitexx, which RIM announced in May.

    Smaller companies such as Good Technology, MobileIron and BoxTone already offer device management as companies fret about leakage of sensitive commercial information via their workers' personal, non-BlackBerry devices.

    "This will definitely rattle some cages" among firms that filled a niche by securing and managing iPhones and other non-BlackBerry devices for corporations, Forrester analyst Christian Kane said.

    Panezic said customers had requested a solution to handle Apple and Android devices, but RIM would consider adding support for other systems, such as Microsoft's Windows Phone, if it saw enough demand.

    ($1=$1.03 Canadian)

    (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Frank McGurty)

    Reuter site - Hackers jailbreak RIM's PlayBook

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    Hackers jailbreak RIM's PlayBook

    Wed, Nov 30 15:31 PM EST

    TORONTO (Reuters) - Three hackers say they have exploited a vulnerability in Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet to gain root access to the device, a claim that could damage the BlackBerry maker's hard-won reputation for security.

    Root access means a user has permission to alter any file or program on a device and can control hardware functions.

    In a response to queries, RIM said it is investigating the claim, and if a "jailbreak" is confirmed will release a patch to plug the hole.

    The three hackers - who identify themselves as xpvqs, neuralic and Chris Wade - plan to release their data within a week as a tool called DingleBerry.

    Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems are frequently attacked by users who want to run programs that have not been authorized by the manufacturers, but breaches of RIM's software are more rare.

    The PlayBook runs on a different operating system than RIM's current BlackBerry smartphones. However, the QNX system will be incorporated into its smartphones starting next year.

    The PlayBook in July became the first tablet device to win a security certification approving it for U.S. government use.

    In a video posted on YouTube, Wade shows the DingleBerry tool allowing the PlayBook to access the Internet video service Hulu, which is not currently available on RIM's tablet.

    Hulu, a service from Comcast's NBC Universal, News Corp's Fox and Walt Disney Co's ABC, blocks all mobile browsers by default and has yet to offer an app for the PlayBook.

    A second video showed neuralic typing commands into a computer to turn the PlayBook's LED indicators on and off.

    A source told Reuters that RIM had previously closed a PlayBook vulnerability that allowed a pre-loaded racing game to force a user to watch an introductory video.

    (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Rob Wilson)

    Reuter site - Factbox: Five facts about Research In Motion

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    Factbox: Five facts about Research In Motion

    Fri, Dec 02 08:43 AM EST

    (Reuters) - Research In Motion's PlayBook tablet computer, which went on sale last April, is the Canadian company's biggest foray outside the smartphone business since launching the iconic BlackBerry in 1999.

    Here are five facts about RIM:

    * Mike Lazaridis co-founded Research In Motion with a school friend while studying at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He left school months before graduating as contracts flowed in for the startup. The university later gave him an honorary degree.

    * The level of encryption used in BlackBerrys has made them de rigor devices for governments and corporations sending sensitive information while out of the office. It has also drawn the ire of countries, including India and the United Arab Emirates, which have demanded access to the system.

    * U.S. President Barack Obama is a BlackBerry aficionado who fought the Secret Service to keep a Spartan version of the device once he stepped into the Oval Office.

    * RIM's main campus is a 90-minute drive from Toronto and minutes from Lazaridis' alma mater. It is also near a sizable Mennonite community that eschews many modern conveniences.

    * RIM's PlayBook runs on an operating system from QNX Software, a company RIM bought after realizing it ran almost all the infotainment systems in automobiles (as well as nuclear reactors, Internet routers and the U.S. postal service). (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Janet Guttsman)

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