Analysts have sounded the warning bell on the outlook for Research In Motion's newest lineup of BlackBerry smartphones heading into the vital holiday shopping season.
"Our recent checks indicate slowing sell-through trends for the new BlackBerry 7 smartphones the past couple weeks," wrote Canaccord Genuity analyst Mike Walkley, who said RIM's new smartphones are not faring well. "Further, with the launch of the iPhone 4S, increasingly price competitive Android smartphones, improving Windows smartphones, and the launch of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, we anticipate increasing competition across all tiers of RIM's products in C2012."
There's no doubt that RIM is in a tough spot. It announced the Bolds 9900, 9930, and 9790; Torch 9810, 9850, and 9860; and the Curve 9350, 9360, 9370, and 9380 in recent months. The Bolds are traditional QWERTY-equipped smartphones, while the Torch 9810 is a follow up to last year's vertical slider. The Torch 9850/9860 and Curve 9380 are all-touchscreen models, with the remaining Curves rounding out the low end of RIM's portfolio.
[ On the heels of its major network outage, RIM Software Glitch Hits BlackBerry Bold 9900 Phones. ]
All these smartphones are available from the four major U.S. network operators. While they are solid smartphones, they bring little new and exciting to a highly charged market.
RIM is currently in the middle of a protracted platform transition as it moves to its new BBX-based system. Unfortunately for RIM, the transition won't deliver new BlackBerrys to consumers until some point in the first half of 2012.
Analysts aren't looking bullishly at Nokia, either. Though Nokia last week excitedly announced that the initial sales of its brand new Lumia 800 Windows Phone smartphone were good, the investing community is not convinced.
"With no breakthrough innovation, we believe Nokia's new phones are unlikely to get traction in a highly concentrated high-end," wrote Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu said in a research note. "Second, we don't believe Lumia phones are competitively priced. Third, we believe in economics of increasing returns for mobile ecosystems and judge rather unlikely that Windows can gain critical mass against Android and iOS. Fourth, we have seen evidences of lack of traction for the Windows operating system over the last 12 months and challenge the idea that the Nokia brand can make a meaningful difference today."
Ouch. Ferragu isn't the only bear in Nokia's den however.
Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette wrote in a research note, "We believe that shipments of Nokia's new Windows Phone 7 products have been lower than we had previously anticipated. We had expected that the company could ship as many as 2 million units into the six targeted markets for the holidays; however, we now believe that those shipments are likely to be less than 1 million for the quarter."
Both companies are swimming against the current, lacking models with real 4G and other critical features. The question is, can they tread water long enough for the current to swing around in their direction?
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