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BlackBerry market share in Q2 may have hit single digits

Zach Epstein
September 16th, 2011 at 9:00 AM

Research In Motion on Thursday reported another disappointing quarter. BlackBerry subscribers were up 40% year-over-year in the second quarter but RIM’s net income plummeted by 60%, margins were squeezed, average selling prices of BlackBerry smartphones dropped and RIM managed to burn through more than half of its cash in a single quarter. Concerns are mounting, analysts are barking and RIM’s stock fell off a cliff in after-hours trading. Tossing yet another concern onto the pile, RIM’s global smartphone market share likely dipped into the single digits last quarter. Read on for more.

Independent analyst Horace Dediu on Friday noted in a post on his Asymco blog that RIM’s share of the worldwide smartphone market may have finally fallen into the single-digit range this past quarter. The vendor shipped only 10.6 million handsets in its fiscal second quarter, missing its own forecast of between 11 million and 12.5 million units, and missing even some of the most conservative analyst estimates as well.

“In terms of the competition, 10.6 million units is less than half what Apple or Samsung sold in its prior quarter,” Dediu wrote in a blog post on Friday. “It’s also less than what HTC sold. RIM’s volume rank will likely go to fifth place as a smartphone vendor.”

Though RIM’s BlackBerry subscriber count surpassed 70 million during its August quarter to reach an all-time high, BlackBerry handset shipments in the fiscal second quarter were down 11% compared to the same quarter in 2010, and down 18% sequentially. “In terms of market share, we’ll have to wait for the competitor data over the next six weeks but the market has been growing at an average of 77% for four quarters so any continuation of this trend would imply RIM’s share dropping to single digits,” Dediu noted.

According to recent data from market research firm Gartner, RIM’s BlackBerry platform represented 11.7% of the global smartphone market in the second calendar quarter of 2011.

Market share woes aside, the analyst calls RIM’s sharp decline in profitability the “biggest shock” among the bad news from yesterday’s earnings report. “It seems that operating margin dropped from 21% to 13%,” wrote Dediu in his post. “The company did incur some one-time charges for recent layoffs, but even without that charge, the margins would be around 16%.

“This is most alarming. The reason for such drops is that as volumes decrease fixed costs don’t decrease as rapidly or at all,” the analyst noted. “The company still needs to keep sales, administration and engineering staff around and they become a larger part of the operating expenses (vs. the component costs which vary with volume of goods sold).”

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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