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Research In Motion Ltd (BBRY)’s Future

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Research in Motion Ltd. (BBRY)Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) has been in survival mode for a while now, but that mode may be switching to panic among some investors—perhaps including fund manager Jim Simons—as the company posted a very disappointing May quarterly earnings report, just three months after posting a better-than-expected report for the February quarter.  It is pretty clear at this point, that Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) is at a crossroads in determining its future…if such a thing will even exist much longer.

The rap

After trading at around $14 per share at one point, Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) dipped below $10 a share last week, losing about 30% of its modest market cap in a matter of days. And there was supposedly a lot of pressure on CEO Thorsten Heins this week when he went before shareholders Tuesday at the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

However, a funny thing happened: Heins must have wowed the crowd and said all the right things, because in the hours after the close of the meeting, the price of BlackBerry stock surged 3 percent.  We do not know the substance of what he said, but whatever it was seemed to be music to attending investors’ ears, because it seemed that more shareholders either jumped on board or increased their stakes in the company.

The plan

So just when it seems that Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) might have a plan in place to actually survive, there was some news coming from the Wall Street Journal this week that revealed that BlackBerry is slated to announce a new round of major layoffs at the company in the very near future, and that the company has started that process by firing its head of U.S. sales, RichardPiasentin, in late June.

There is no immediate word as to the scope of the layoffs, but the word “massive” has been tossed around. Whether or not “massive” figures can be compared to the 5,000 layoffs the company reported in its previous fiscal year remains to be seen. By comparison, Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK) laid off 10,000 jobs in 2012, with an additional 1,000 cut earlier this year, while other smartphone competitor Sony laid off 10,000 in its 2012 fiscal year.

So there’s that. Unless you’re Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) (ignoring Google’s job cuts at Motorola Mobility), it’s difficult to not expect some sort of labor force slimming. According to comScore, Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) held 4.8% of the smartphone platform market at the end of May, a decrease of 0.6 percentage points from three months earlier. Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK), meanwhile, still holds 0.4% of the market with its Symbian OS, while it has helped Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) attain 3.0% of the market.

Obviously, all of these bottom-feeders have a lot of ground to make up in comparison to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s 52.4% share and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s 39.2% mark, but it’s worth mentioning that Symbian was the No. 1 OS as little as two years ago. There’s still hope for BlackBerry and Nokia Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:NOK).

The questions

Still, the question remains: if these layoffs will happen at Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY), and Heins spoke a good game that caused the stock to rise after he addressed the skittish investors, what could this mean?

Will BlackBerry indeed be moving away from the labor-intensive hardware portion of its smartphones and be focused on its business-oriented mobile software? Will it be narrowing its focus even more than that?

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