Research In Motion Ltd.'s presence at the wireless industry's main annual gathering in Barcelona is "underwhelming" and highlights the smartphone giant's waning position in the market place, according to one financial analyst.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) draws thousands of industry professionals -- from wireless industry executives to bloggers and financial analysts -- to Spain every year. It is increasingly an important venue for companies to showcase their top products, as representatives for the world's wireless carriers peruse the newest smartphones, gadgets, network technology and smaller companies demonstrating advancements in areas such as billing and wireless data efficiency.
At this year's MWC, however, RIM has no new products to offer up to a global wireless industry: Its BlackBerry 7 lineup of smartphones such as the Bold 9900 came out last year and the only new product is a major software revamp for RIM's PlayBook tablet that the company was forced to discount heavily after weak sales. Although many expected RIM to unveil its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones at MWC this year, the company's former co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie announced a major delay of those devices until "late 2012" shortly before they stepped down.
"As we expected, and not a surprise, RIM's presence at MWC was underwhelming with no new product announcements, no further clarity on the timing of BB10 devices," wrote UBS Investment Research analyst Phillip Huang. "The show reinforced the uphill battle RIM faces in reversing its position in a market that continues to evolve at a torrid pace and with formidable competitors that include (Google, Apple, and Microsoft)."
Although the PlayBook's software update was greeted with enthusiasm earlier in February, RIM is now likely selling the PlayBook below cost -- at discounts of about $300 on a device that used to start at $500 for the most basic model -- and Apple seems likely to unveil a brand new iPad on March 7.
RIM still makes the vast majority of its revenues from smartphones. With a slew of new smartphones coming out from cheap manufacturers such as Huawei, stalwarts such as Nokia -- which, like RIM, is trying to reestablish its position in the American market -- and the dominating forces of Apple and Samsung, analysts see RIM falling further behind its industry peers as it works on its new devices.
"With a tough transition under way and a product void, we remain on the sidelines," Mr. Huang wrote. "We see no near-term catalyst to drive the stock meaningfully higher. We expect the share price to remain volatile."