John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

RIM’s BlackBerrys Losing Shelf Space, Mindshare Among Carriers

With Apple’s next generation iPhone in the offing and new Windows Phone 8 and Android handsets headed to market in the weeks ahead, Research In Motion’s forthcoming BlackBerry 10 devices are no longer top of mind for RIM’s carrier partners — if they were ever top of mind at all.

And while carrier executives are publicly voicing their support for RIM — as Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam recently said, no one should write off RIM until BlackBerry 10 has shipped — in practice they’re taking a more pragmatic approach to RIM’s faltering position in the smartphone market. They’re beginning to give it less retail shelf space.

Anyway, that’s what Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette is seeing. He says that recent retail checks show not only a significant decline in BlackBerry inventory, but shelf space pressure and lackluster sales as well.

“Our sell-through checks in the United States indicate that BlackBerry sales were largely unchanged in August versus July; however, we detected meaningfully lower inventory levels versus a month ago,” Faucette explains. “In terms of sell-through, we believe that current run rates are roughly one-fifth of those we saw in the United States just eight months ago. Further, we found a meaningful number of carrier retail locations which had not sold a single BlackBerry in over a month.”

If accurate, that’s a pretty sad state of affairs. RIM is heading into the holiday shopping season at a serious disadvantage. Its aging BlackBerry portfolio is going to look pretty dusty next to new smartphones from Apple, Nokia, Motorola and others. And by the time BlackBerry 10 ships, Motorola’s new Droid Razrs, Nokia’s Lumia 920 and Apple’s latest iPhone will all have had plenty of time to push it even further from carriers’ minds.

Which leaves RIM in quite a predicament. The company’s turnaround plan hinges on winning with carriers and consumers both. And if it fails to win over the carriers, it’s going to have a difficult time winning over consumers.

Said Faucette, “Even assuming that BlackBerry 10 devices roll out on time starting in 2013, we believe the clear evidence of shelf-space pressure our checks have detected does not bode well for the company in the longer term.”

RIM has a tough few months ahead of it, indeed.

Reached for comment, a RIM spokesperson reiterated the company’s confidence in BlackBerry 10 and the devices on which it will run: “We remain focused on the successful launch of BlackBerry 10, scheduled for the first quarter of calendar 2013, and believe the delivery of high quality, fully-featured BlackBerry 10 smartphones will be an attractive offering to our customers.”

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”