RIM promises to push BlackBerry envelope in face of heavy competition; looks at new apps in health, government space
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) vowed to keep innovating its products in the heavily competitive smartphone space and will push its iconic technology into areas such as health care, government and e-commerce.
The company, known as RIM, told shareholders Tuesday that while applications such as music, games and screensavers are important, its plans are to leverage the technology into more “substantive” areas.
For instance, Balsillie said he has been in discussions with health care and insurance companies about special uses for the BlackBerry.
“There are a whole lot of elements in play ... It’s a big equation,” Balsillie said.
“We really play by our own rules. Our own sense of the world and our markets.”
RIM recently launched a new online application store for BlackBerry users for upgrades and purchases, but it has been criticized by some as not being user friendly.
While the RIM store is gaining customers daily, it still trails Apple’s apps store for number of users.
Balsillie told shareholders he wasn’t concerned.
“It’s going just fine, but it’s a work in progress as much of what we are doing is,” he said in response to a question.
The gathering in Waterloo, Ont., which was also webcast, was attended by young and old.
A young boy stepped up to the microphone and asked when the company might launch a special BlackBerry for kids, so that his mother would allow him to get one.
“Both of my kids have one,” said president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, causing the crowd to erupt in laughter.
Another shareholder asked if it bothers the company that BlackBerries get a bad rap for distracting people during events, such as company meetings.
“A lot of people blame BlackBerries for ruining meetings. I like to think that BlackBerries have liberated people from boring meetings,” Balsillie said.
The shareholder gathering came as RIM’s stock price faces pressure from competitors including Apple’s new iPhone and Palm’s new Pre smartphone.
Last month, RIM appeared to disappoint investors when it said second quarter subscriber growth is expected to be relatively flat.
It said revenues are expected to grow slightly from quarter-to-quarter to between US$3.45 billion and US$3.70 billion. The company reports in U.S. dollars.
The stock has been sluggish since and closed down two per cent or $1.66 at C$75.34 on the Toronto Stock Exchange Tuesday. The stock was trading at a 52-week high of $143.98 last August and fell to $44.23 in December.
First-quarter revenues rose 53 per cent to $3.42 billion, up from $2.24 billion a year earlier.
RIM posted a $643 million profit, or $1.12 per share, for the first quarter ended May 30. That was above the $482.5 million, or 84 cents per share a year earlier.
RIM has grown despite the impact of the global recession, which has caused consumers to cut back on spending, especially for items considered not essential.
But with the often-termed “CrackBerry” in the palms of everyone from movie stars to President Barak Obama, what is considered essential is clearly not just food and shelter in today’s tech-consumed society.