Research In Motion Ltd. (Nasdaq: RIMM) aims to release the first of its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones globally in January, betting that the device will help it regain market share lost to rivals led by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.
“My expectation is that in some countries we will be launching in January,” Frank Boulben, RIM’s new chief marketing officer, said in an interview today before the company’s annual shareholder meeting near its headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario. “Will it be three continents or five, five countries or 10? I don’t know the specifics yet, but it will be multiple countries on multiple continents.”
Later, RIM shares fell more than 5 percent for a second straight day after Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins struggled to reassure shareholders at the meeting.
Heins faced combative questions from investors, who have seen the stock lose about 95 percent of its value since peaking in 2008. RIM has failed to keep up with Apple and Google, plus the release of its BlackBerry 10 operating system, a linchpin of its comeback plan, has been delayed twice.
“I want to assure you I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over the past year,” Heins said at the meeting. “We are working around the clock to successfully complete the transition path that we are on.”
RIM, playing catch-up with Apple’s iPhone and smartphones that run on Google’s Android platform, is racing to get the revamped BlackBerry 10 into consumers’ hands. RIM’s share of the global smartphone industry fell by more than half to 6.4 percent in the first quarter, according to IDC. Android jumped to 59 percent, while Apple accounted for 23 percent.
RIM’s stock fell as much as 5.1 percent to $7.28 in New York, following a decline of 5.3 percent yesterday. The shares have lost about half their value since the start of the year.
At the event, Heins fielded questions about whether his salary of $980,000 was warranted and whether the board was diverse enough. Shareholders also voted today to approve RIM’s directors and a nonbinding say-on-pay measure that the board had supported.
The company also said today that it was aiming to release its first BlackBerry 10 phones in January, giving a more specific time frame than its previous goal of the first quarter.
Boulben, who was hired for RIM’s top marketing job in May, said that releasing the phone in January and not in the run-up to the holiday shopping season means RIM won’t have to compete with a flood of new handsets. It also can garner more publicity in the new year, he said. Apple and other rivals are expected to release new models later this year.
Still, Boulben said he couldn’t guarantee the January timing for the first phone because wireless carriers’ testing of the device could run late.
“The testing process of our carrier partners can take up to eight, 10, 12 weeks, so we are also dependent on them,” he said.
RIM had initially planned to introduce the first BB10 device in the spring of last year, before delaying it twice. The company said last month that the first BB10 phone wouldn’t be released until first quarter of 2013, an announcement that sent the shares tumbling. At the time, RIM wasn’t more specific.
RIM last month reported a first-quarter loss excluding restructuring expenses that was more than five times bigger than what analysts had predicted. Sales tumbled 43 percent to $2.8 billion, and the company said it would cut 5,000 jobs.
[RIM has declined to discuss its plans for its research and development operation in Research Triangle Park, N.C.]