The race for third place: Analysts cool ahead of BlackBerry 10 launch
Few are willing to predict either a surging comeback for the Canadian giant, nor a speedy spiral into obscurity, but it's fair to say BlackBerry 10 isn't fighting for first or even second place.
Analysts believe 2013 will be the year when BlackBerry 10 goes toe-to-toe with Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 for third spot. Three ecosystems, it's suggested by many, is all this industry can support longterm.
According to RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue, folk counting on a speedy return to form for BlackBerry may need to be patient, with those demanding sales of 30 million in 2013 (largely to the platform's existing userbase) likely to be disappointed.
"Our forecast calls for RIM to ship 500,000 BlackBerry 10 units in the Feb-quarter and 10 million in calender year 2013," Sue said in a note, reported by Boy Genius Report.
"Heavy subsidies and promotions may be required to sustain initially positive trends. Approximately 10 20 million of RIM's 79 million installed base may upgrade to BlackBerry 10 over time, although migration to low-cost Android is likely to continue.
"BB10, which does not entail mandatory service fees, will increase RIMs mix of hardware revenue over time. Sustainable hardware margins have been elusive for many vendors."
For others, however, RIM's decision to focus on upgrading existing BlackBerry users may be a mistake.
"RIM continues to face the twin demons of consumer-driven buying power and a chronic inability to appeal to mature market consumers," Ovum analyst Jan Dawson said in a post first published in December, but re-issued to the press today.
"There is nothing in what weve seen so far of BB10 that suggests it will conquer the second of these demons, and the first is utterly out of RIMs control."
Dawson said Ovum research suggests RIM is keen for BlackBerry 10 to be "the best BlackBerry for BlackBerry users" rather than "something that will necessarily win converts from other platforms."
This, he suggested, is not the best strategy if the company is looking to expand its base.
"The points of differentiation RIM has focused on in teasers for the new platform confirm this better multitasking, productivity, email, contacts and calendar applications and so on, rather than a better gaming, content consumption or social networking experience."
However, PocketGamer.biz understands games set to form a major part of RIM's BlackBerry 10 unveiling, suggesting Ovum's take make me somewhat out of step.
Indeed, the firm expects to have 70,000 apps available at launch.
In comparison, both the App Store and Google Play have 700,000 plus, with Windows Phone reportedly at around the 125,000 mark.
"There is little in the new platform that suggests it will have the compelling apps, content stores, or the broader ecosystem that consumers have come to expect in a competitive smartphone platform," Dawson added.
No speedy exit
Nonetheless, Dawson said Ovum doesn't expect a "speedy exit from the market".
"With no debt, 80 million subscribers and profitability in the black in at least some recent quarters, the company can continue in this vein for years," he added.
"But its glory days are past, and it is only a matter of time before it reaches a natural end."
Ovum does expect RIM to experience a "brief bump" in sales from the BB10 launch, but believes the platform will appeal mainly to existing BlackBerry users.
Indeed, Dawson's views are echoed by Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis, who according to The Guardian believes BlackBerry 10 will be the last roll of the dice.
"The question is, how long can they keep rolling it? How long can they wait for the right numbers? The high-end corporate users are abandoning it."