This was supposed to be a day of rejoicing for Research In Motion Limited (NASDAQ:RIMM) , as the company hosted its launch event for BlackBerry 10 in New York this morning. Leading up to today's event, shares have more than doubled over the past few months after bottoming at $6.22. Yet, the stock is currently under heavy pressure today, down by as much as 9% so far.
Why are investors already disappointed with BlackBerry 10?
Patience is not a virtue in the smartphone market This new platform has been in the works for years, an incredibly long development cycle in an industry known for rapid shifts and cutthroat competition. RIM acquired QNX Software in April 2010, and management outlined its new platform that would be built on QNX in fiscal Q1 2011.
BlackBerry 10 has seen numerous development delays over the years, and the Z10 won't be available in the important U.S. market until March (assuming there are no additional delays). That's 21 months from when then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis first discussed the platform transition to when it will actually be available to U.S. consumers.
One of RIM's better chances of seeing some early success was if it could launch BlackBerry 10 devices promptly during a relatively quiet time lacking other major rival smartphone introductions. The company already missed the busy holiday shopping season, and most competing vendors don't have anything slated for at least a couple months. That could have been a window of opportunity, but now the Z10 will be pushing up against the possible unveilings of major competitors.
Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S IV is expected to be unveiled in April. The South Korean company's Galaxy S series are among the best-selling Android devices right now, and Android followers are anxiously awaiting the next iteration. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is rumored to be moving iPhone launches back to summer time frames and could potentially unveil an iPhone 5S and lower-cost iPhone as early as May.
Apple and Samsung are the top two smartphone vendors in the world right now, and it would have been better to avoid confronting them head on. In fairness, some of the timing is out of RIM's control, as CEO Thorsten Heins said that U.S. carriers are still testing the devices. The Z10 does launch almost immediately in the U.K. and Canada, but sales to those regions combined are still less than RIM's U.S. revenue.
The price is not right Pricing may have also disappointed investors, as RIM is hoping to position the Z10 at the high-end of the market. The Z10 will retail for $200 on contract, and $600 unsubsidized, which are relatively standard price points for flagship devices. However, Apple still dominates the high-end smartphone market, comprising 74% of smartphone activations at AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) combined in the fourth quarter.