Telecom & Wireless

Is BlackBerry Finished?

BlackBerry Z10
Source: Courtesy Research in Motion Ltd.
Last week’s launch of the new Z10 smartphone and operating system from BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) fizzled and the company is paying the price today. In a note to clients, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) cut its rating on the stock from Buy to Neutral and cut its price target from $19 to $17.

The firm said that checks at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) and RadioShack Corp. (NYSE: RSH) stores revealed that product positioning was lousy and that advertising support was limited. The Wall Street Journal cites Goldman as saying that “sell-through at most locations was less than 10 per day … and as low as 2-3 per day.”

So, how crucial is the U.S. market to the success of the Z10 and the survival of BlackBerry? Actually dislodging the market share leaders Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Samsung Electronics is simply not in the cards for BlackBerry.

Look at the impact Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)/Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia phone had on the market. Virtually none. Nokia picked up some steam in early January and has now risen to a point where the shares are down just 15% for the past 12 months from a trough of down nearly 60%. Since CEO Stephen Elop joined Nokia in September 2010, the company’s shares are off about 63%. BlackBerry’s shares are down nearly 70% in the same time frame.

Nokia seems prepared to tough it out with both Elop and Microsoft. If BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 flop, Nokia might gain some ground on Apple and the others, but not much.

BlackBerry probably cannot count on its business customers returning — it is too late for that. Its only hope lies in an acquisition or a huge success in an emerging market. But Nokia has more name recognition there and is more likely to make inroads in emerging nations than is BlackBerry — or even Apple or Samsung for that matter. As for an acquisition, that seems unlikely too.

BlackBerry’s downgrade this morning is not going to be the last of those we see.

Shares of BlackBerry are down about 4.8% at around noon today, at $14.21 in a 52-week range of $6.22 to $18.32. Shares of Nokia are down nearly 3%, at $3.23 in a 52-week range of $1.63 to $5.57.