BlackBerry 7 Device Sales Off To Good Start - InformationWeek

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Commentary
8/25/2011
11:18 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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BlackBerry 7 Device Sales Off To Good Start

Checks with AT&T and Sprint retail stores indicated that Research In Motion's new line of BlackBerry 7 smartphones is garnering interest from consumers.

Research In Motion introduced new BlackBerrys recently and they hit retail shelves over the weekend. The devices, which are mostly incremental updates to previous designs, appear to be selling well, at least initially.

RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky called 40 retail stores across the United States to see how the Torch 9810 is selling at AT&T stores and how the Bold 9930 is selling at Sprint stores. His discoveries aren't all that surprising, reports the Financial Post.

"On the one hand, sell-through of the Torch 2 at AT&T appears light, with no sell-outs (similarity with the existing Torch could explain why)," said Abramsky in a note to clients. The 9810 is a minor update to last year's 9800. "On the other hand, sell-through of the Bold 9930 and full touchscreen Torch 9850 at Sprint appears healthy, with 20% of stores sold out of the Bold 9930, reflecting its novelty/popularity," noted Abramsky.

The Bold 9930 features both a touch display and full QWERTY keyboard. It looks like a traditional BlackBerry, but the added power of the touchscreen is a nice upgrade. The Torch 9850 is an entirely new device, an all-touch BlackBerry. The 9930 is also being sold by Verizon Wireless, and a variant of the Bold 9900 is being sold by T-Mobile.

Abramsky said that most of the people buying the new BlackBerrys are upgrading from old BlackBerrys. In his note to clients, Ambrasky indicated that the new lineup of BlackBerry 7 devices could convince RIM's installed base of 67 million users to upgrade. He sees the new devices positively impacting RIM's financial performance in the short term, though the long-term picture remains cloudy.

Perhaps the most significant opinion coming from Abramsky is that he believes the new device will encourage people who own old, crusty BlackBerrys to upgrade to the new ones. Abramsky didn't say that the new smartphones from RIM will convince those who've adopted Android smartphones or the iPhone to return to the BlackBerry platform. While RIM can get by for a while on re-converting the converted, it eventually needs to sign up new BlackBerry users if it hopes to regain the ground it has already lost to Apple and Google. BlackBerry 7 alone, however, isn't going to do that.

"BlackBerry 7 uptake alone may be insufficient to reverse negative investor sentiment over RIM's future, pending the success or failure of QNX handsets expected 2012," said Abramsky.

RIM's first QNX smartphones aren't due until some point in the first half of 2012. Until then, smartphone shoppers will have to be content with BlackBerry 7 devices--even though the platform is a dead end.

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