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BlackBerry PlayBook Doomed Like HP TouchPad, Analyst Predicts

Blackberry Playbook

Research In Motion's BlackBerry PlayBookREUTERS/Mark Blinch

As Research In Motion prepares to report its fiscal second-quarter earnings on Thursday after the market closes, the future of the company and its next-generation products again takes center stage.

While estimates for RIM’s second and third quarters are expected by some analysts to beat Wall Street’s consensus, performance of the vendor’s just-released BlackBerry 7 smartphones obviously doesn’t weigh as heavily on the minds of analysts as RIM’s future products and strategy.

QNX and its ability to compete with the likes of Apple and Google will be analysts’ focus for the next several quarters, and unfortunately for RIM, the only QNX device it has launched to date is the BlackBerry PlayBook.

Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair believes that there is no “meaningful evidence” that RIM is poised to turn things around. Analysts have lowered their expectations for the second quarter and while that may help the vendor when it reports its earnings on Thursday, it will do little for the company in the long run according to Blair. He also says BlackBerry 7 device sales have been mixed thus far, and though they offer a significant improvement compared to older BlackBerry phones, they “should have come out with 18 – 24 months ago.”

On the PlayBook tablet, Blair’s opinion is even more dour. “Last quarter RIM talked about shipping 500,000 units but did not speak of sell-through for obvious reasons,” the analyst wrote in a note to investors on Wednesday. “Channel fill could turn up another decent shipment number this year in the 500,000 – 700,000 unit range but we believe sell-through has been weak enough that that number will trend down over the year and RIM will likely send the PlayBook into the same graveyard as the HP TouchPad.”

RIM has a lot to prove following its first-quarter results, which missed estimates and were accompanied by news of imminent layoffs. A win on Thursday would be a nice start, but the company must also be focused on instilling investor confidence in RIM’s management, strategy and next-generation QNX platform.