Hey, the BlackBerry is back

Research In Motion shares rise as new operating system and devices loom.

By Jason Notte Nov 23, 2012 4:25PM

Woman sitting on steps with smartphone copyright Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesPeople are excited about the BlackBerry? Research In Motion (RIMM) shares are up? How did that turkey-induced tryptophan slumber somehow take us back in time by about five to ten years?


Fear not, post-Thanksgiving tech junkies. It's still 2012 and your Google (GOOG) Android and Apple (AAPL) iOS devices still exist. If you're a Research In Motion investor who's weathered the company's prolonged tough patch, however, the impending release of the BlackBerry 10 operating system next year and Friday's 14% boost in share price are worth throwing a 2000s theme party over.


Put on that Paris Hilton costume and crank up the Sisqo, because Research In Motion's finally going to launch its much-talked-about platform and new devices in 2013, after delays of almost a full year. The company's stock is up 90% in the last two months on high hopes and Jefferies & Co analyst Peter Misek, who has done RIM no favors with his past criticism, raised his rating and price target on the stock on Tuesday.


It's a rare burst of joy for a company that's manufactured little but bad news since the turn of the decade. Even with the recent uptick, share prices are down 90% from 2008, when they peaked at $148. Remember when BlackBerry was the smartphone and the favored tech plaything of the free-spending, blue-shirted set? Last quarter it fell to 8.4% of the U.S. smartphone market, according to ComScore (SCOR). Worldwide, Gartner (IT) says BlackBerry has slid from 11.3% of all smartphones in the third quarter of 2011 to just 5.3% last quarter. By comparison, Google Android devices grew from 52.5% to 72% of the market during the same span.


In darker times, Research In Motion could console itself with the reminder that at least it wasn't Nokia's (NOK) Symbian. Never a huge force in North America, the near-antiquated Symbian smartphones are now a scant 0.6% of the U.S. market, while its worldwide share has collapsed from more than 50% roughly three years ago to 16% in third-quarter 2011 and just 2.6% today.


Now Research In Motion's having more fun than Apple, with its share price climbing 59% in the last two months compared to Apple's 17% collapse during the same period. Granted, Research In Motion's market share is still shrinking and it hasn't launched a damned thing yet, but for the first time in a long time the company's anticipating something ... anything.


Earlier this month, Research In Motion announced that it plans to introduce its new operating system and devices on Jan. 30 and make them available to consumers by February. The new platform and devices just received U.S. government security clearance, which gives the U.S. and Canadian government agencies that constitute a huge portion of the BlackBerry's user base access to the new smartphones as soon as they arrive.


It'll launch with a touchscreen, but old-school, original recipe keyboard BlackBerry devices that fanboys love so well will get the BlackBerry10 treatment a few weeks later. Will that be enough to turn things around for the fallen Canadian tech giant? It's a better strategy than watching the company wither while the BlackBerry becomes a retro relic.


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