Today, Verizon announced that the BlackBerry Bold 9930 will be available in stores August 25, while Sprint announced that the 9930 and Torch 9850 will be available August 21. Meanwhile, AT&T announced that the Torch 9810 will be available August 21.
In fact, these 3 BlackBerry 7 devices have been available for almost a week in other countries such as Canada, the UK and India. On August 10, the Bold 9900 became available on Rogers (some customers purchased it on August 9) while the 9900 and the Torch 9810 were available on Bell on the same day. In India, the Bold 9900 became available on August 11. Meanwhile, the 9900 was available in the UK on August 12 from Vodafone UK.
RIM's Fiscal 2nd quarter ends on August 27, and some analysts have been concerned that the new devices would miss the quarter. In fact, RIM gave a wide guidance for 2Q of between $0.75-$1.05 because of the uncertainty of when the devices will launch. The market's consensus had been that the devices would launch in late-August, between August 21 and 29. RIM's ability to launch the devices over 11 days earlier than expected (and in multiple countries) is certainly a positive, and will allow RIM to sell more devices in 2Q than expected.
RIM's launch of BlackBerry 7 devices is different from previous launches in 3 ways, which most analysts have overlooked.
1. Simultaneous Launch of Multiple Devices
Unlike RIM's last major launch (of the Torch on August 12, 2010) RIM has launched 3 devices simultaneously (Bold 9900/9930, Torch 9810 and Torch 9850/9860). This will boost sales by appealing to users with different tastes for screen sizes and presence/lack of a physical keyboard.
2. Simultaneous Launches Across Hundreds of Carriers
During RIM's AGM, the company stated that they were engaged in 491 carrier certification programs with 225 carriers worldwide. This is unlike the launch of the Torch 9800 last August, when the device was available at AT&T on August 12, but users in other countries had to wait several months (which is how most smartphone makers launch devices). Instead, this time, the BlackBerry 7 devices became available in Canada on August 10, India on August 11, the UK on August 12 and the US on August 21. Thus, RIM will sell more devices in the current quarter than most analysts estimate.
3. RIM Strengthens Touch Screen Offerings
RIM is significantly expanding its touch screen offerings, an area that was previously lacking compared to Android and iPhone. All 3 BlackBerry 7 devices launched contain a touch screen. In fact, the Torch 9850/9860 is a full touchscreen device that will compete directly with Android devices and the iPhone. This will help RIM reverse its market share loss in the US to its rivals. In addition, of the 7 BlackBerry 7 devices that will be launched this year, most will sport a touch screen.
RIM shares will receive a boost
On July 25 (RIM closed at C$25.19 that day), I wrote an article stating that I expected RIM shares will rise by at least 20% in the next 2-3 months on the new devices. With the earlier-than-expected launch of BlackBerry 7 devices and Google's acquisition of Motorola today, I now expect RIM's shares to rise at least 30% in the next 2-3 months. With the shares closing today at $26.59, that would put the shares at $34.57.
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