RIM had another opportunity to convey its consistent message today since the announcement of a BlackBerry 10 delay and its first quarterly loss. The company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is happening now in Waterloo, Ontario, the company’s home town and, at least for now, the country’s tech R&D centre.
Much of what was said during the AGM was a repeat of last week’s PR blitz, in which Thorsten Heins and Andrew Mcleod ensured us that despite a delay in BB10 coming to market, the fundamentals are assured in the world of RIM. Heins reiterated that the delay was not due to any fundamental problems with the OS, but a “code integration problem.” There are millions of lines of code that the company has to adapt to be compatible with their existing network architecture, and they want to get it right the first time. “No compromise” has been a line used again and again to describe BlackBerry 10 and it was repeated many times during the meeting today.
But there will continue to be challenges. Heins expects the company to lose money “for the next few quarters,” as they continue their difficult transition. This includes cutting 5,000 jobs and selling a corporate jet in an effort to cut $1 billion in annual operating expenses. The company will first release a touchscreen-only device, followed shortly thereafter by a “Bold-like” BB10 product with a QWERTY keyboard. We can also expect a Torch-like slider at some point, but details remain very thin.
Many shareholder questions were aimed at Heins’ ability to operate a company of this size and importance to the Canadian economy. There are a lot of very disappointed, and angry, investors who have lost a lot of money to RIM’s sliding share price. The company aims to continue pushing BB7 very hard in the run-up to BB10. Heins reminded us that BlackBerry “owns” the QWERTY keyboard space and that many Fortune 500 companies are among the 78 million active BlackBerry users. To boot, there are 56 million active BBM users.
An important thing to note is that RIM is exploring licensing options for BB10 including, it seems, BBM. That might lead to yet another round of BBM for iOS and Android rumours, but the consensus seems that RIM is being very careful about its most lucrative and consumer-facing brand.
The company is already entrenched in its recovery phase, having already saved $300 million of its desired $1 billion. With remaining employees working six days per week, and a sell-off of important assets, by the time the dust settles this will be a very different company from the one we see now.