Ina Fried

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Conference Call: RIM Talks to the Street (But Plans to Say Less)

Investors are eagerly awaiting Research In Motion’s conference call, though the BlackBerry maker has already said it will share less detail this quarter and even less in the quarters to come.

Earlier on Thursday, RIM reported earnings that topped estimates along with sales that were just about what many analysts were expecting. The company said it expects revenue for the current quarter to be around $5.5 billion to $5.7 billion with per-share earnings in the range of $1.74 to $1.80.

It said that it shipped 14.2 million BlackBerrys, up 40 percent from a year earlier, and added 5.1 million new subscribers net in the quarter. However the company is expected not to forecast those figures for the coming quarter, nor does it plan to continue reporting those numbers in future quarters.

Among the things investors are likely to be interested in is what the company forecasts as far as shipments to Verizon in a quarter during which many expect the carrier to start selling the iPhone. Motorola has already warned that it expects its shipments to Verizon to take a hit.

Mobilized will have live coverage of the conference call starting at 2 pm PT.

1:55 pm: RIM shares, which had been trading lower in after-hours trading are now up around 3 percent.

2:02 pm: Call just getting underway with the usual warnings, caveats, etc.

2:06 pm: BlackBerry Torch now in 75 markets, just rolling out in Latin America.

2:06 pm: BlackBerry Style is one-third of BlackBerry sales at Sprint.

2:08 pm: Our relationship with Verizon remains strong, RIM says. A number of new products coming for Verizon including adding the BlackBerry 6 OS to the curve and Bold lines early in the new year.

2:08 pm: Recap of recent developer announcements, including payment service, launch of WebWorks, etc.

2:10 pm: Now more than 16,000 applications in BlackBerry App World, RIM’s App Store.

2:11 pm: PlayBook tablet expected to ship in first quarter in U.S. and will be Wi-Fi only. Other markets and models with cellphone radios will follow.

2:14 pm: Review of Q3 results. Average selling price for BlackBerry was approximately $315, with half of shipments coming in last month of the quarter as resellers prepared for the holidays.

2:16 pm: Company says it is comfortable with inventory levels.

2:19 pm: On to outlook. No plans for PlayBook revenues, with first revenues not expected until following quarter. Sounds like the availability of PlayBook won’t be until at least March. (RIM’s current quarter goes through Feb. 26)

2:24 pm: On to Q&A.

BB6 will eventually work on QNX operating system, but the company says it hasn’t given any sense of timing.

As for what QNX can deliver, co-CEO Jim Balsillie says “You’ll see more at CES.”

2:25 pm: Sorry, some technical problems here at Mobilized. We got disconnected a couple of times, but have switched to the Webcast and are back on.

Seems like the talk is on average selling prices.

2:32 pm: North America is still performing very, very well but dynamics here are different.

Balsillie says he expects stronger year here next year based on product plans in place.

“I feel very, very good,” he says.

“I feel great about where we are sitting in North America for 2011,” Balsillie says, and the company has “knocked the cover off the ball” in a lot of other markets.

2:37 pm: Question on China market. “I think you should have very positive expectations in China,” Balsillie says.

“China does well,” he says. “You’d always want them to do better….All you can do is keep doing the right things and investing in these places. The market is just so big.” Sometimes markets come faster than you expect, sometimes they come slower, he says. But, he says, “I’ve never seen a market not take off.”

Demand strong, he says, for PlayBook in China and Japan.

2:41 pm: Question on payments. Balsillie says one wouldn’t be going out on a limb to predict Near Field Communications integration.

2:44 pm: A lot of talk on why PlayBook is a good bet for businesses with Balsillie talking about its enterprise strength. Not much new information there.

2:46 pm: Will there be a media strategy to promote the tablet’s media abilities to consumers?

“Oh yeah, yeah,” Balsillie says–again, without giving any new details. Lots of game and media partnerships.

2:50 pm: Everything is fine. Things are great. (That pretty much sums up Balsillie’s statements the last few minutes–Just insert a different question or topic).

2:56 pm: “I think the PlayBook redefines what a tablet should be,” Balsillie says, adding that the fact one can create apps without needing to learn a new language are strengths that RIM’s approach s bringing to the table. “We’re way ahead on that and CIO friendliness, we’re way ahead on that too.”

3:02 pm: Call’s done.


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