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RIM shares slide on "underwhelming" Torch sales

Early performance solid but not enough to fight off Android and Apple

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 18 August, 2010

READ MORE: Research In Motion | Handset

After a burst of enthusiasm around RIM's launch of its latest BlackBerry, the Torch, the firm's shares have slid again, amid reports of disappointing initial performance. The Torch 9700, the first smartphone to run the company's upgraded operating system, BlackBerry OS 6, is seen as RIM's crucial device to fend off the rising attack on its market from Apple and Android.

But online retailer Amazon has already slashed the price of the device to $99, less than a week after the phone shipped in the US on August 12, with an AT&T exclusive. It will soon appear in some European markets with Vodafone. According to estimates from analysts at Stifel Nicolaus and RBC, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Torch has sold just 150,000 units since launch, compared to 1.7m iPhone 4s in the first three days of that handset's availability (and despite 'Antennagate').


The new OS has some significant improvements, notably a reworked WebKit browser, and the Torch comes with the full suite of essential features for a high end modern smartphone - full touchscreen, slide-out Qwerty keyboard and new user interface. But at launch, many analysts questioned whether it was enough to move ahead of Apple, HTC and other companies currently leading the field - or merely a catch-up device for a range that had fallen well behind the cutting edge.

In a new research note, analyst firm Gartner says it believes the Torch will appeal mainly to traditional BlackBerry users in the business world, and stop them defecting to other smartphones, but is unlikely to attract new users. It may fare better in Europe, where the BlackBerry has been making significant progress in the youth market, depending on carrier pricing and marketing.

Shares in RIM have fallen steadily since the launch of the Torch, dropping almost $5 per share since August 12. One analyst downgrading the firm was Scott Sutherland of Wedbush, who moved shares from outperform to neutral and wrote in a client note: "We continue to believe that RIM's strategic positioning in the enterprise, alignment with carriers, new products, and international expansion will allow the company to participate in the solid growth of the smartphone market. However, while the Torch launch was decent, we do not see it slowing the oncoming rush of Apple and Google long term, and see risks to its enterprise positioning."

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