BlackBerry "Super Phones" Coming In 2012

As Research In Motion moves to a new, more powerful generation of BlackBerrys, the Canadian tech company may not be quick enough to satisfy the competitive smartphone market, say analysts.

"The Blackberry phones need a fresh start now," PC Magazine's lead mobility analyst, Sascha Segan, said from the BlackBerry World Conference in Orlando, Fla..

"Without a major change to their software, they're not going to attract new developers and consumers," Segan said Monday.

Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) announced two new BlackBerry Bold models with an upgraded operating system, along with some software applications for its PlayBook computer tablet at the conference on Monday.

However, that's not what analysts believe is critical to RIM's future.

RIM will launch the new line of BlackBerrys, dubbed "super phones," with the same operating system that's in its new PlayBook tablet in early 2012.

The QNX system, which RIM acquired last year and has been used in real-time automobile entertainment systems, is promising to provide consumers with an even better browsing system and allow them to run multiple software applications at the same time. These BlackBerrys may also support Android-based software applications, which analysts believe will appeal to consumers.

"At this point with the current product portfolio, RIM has an underpowered smartphone with an operating system that is not overly Internet friendly," said analyst Alkesh Shah of New York-based Evercore Partners.

Apple's iPhone and HTC, Samsung, Motorola and LG smartphones with Google's Android operating system have been eating away at RIM's market position, especially in North America.

The new BlackBerry Bold models are considered a transition to the more powerful QNX-based BlackBerrys, but analysts will still be watching how well they sell to U.S. consumers this holiday season, Shah said.

Shah noted that RIM lowered its estimates for its first-quarter profit based on lower sales for an aging product line due to any new phones not immediately coming into the market.

Technology analyst Anil Doradla of Chicago-based William Blair & Co. said the market and trends could very well change in six to eight months by the time RIM launches its more powerful smartphones next year.

"Within this time frame, there are other players in the market who are not sitting idly by, too, and they're also working on what needs to be done," Doradla said from Orlando.

RIM will have to make good on what it says about the appeal of the QNX-based BlackBerrys, he added.

"From an investor's point of view, it will be a credibility issue."

Doradla said he doesn't believe RIM changed many perceptions at the Florida conference.

"There's nothing that they said today that could make one change their opinion either way."

Segan said RIM has two days at the Orlando conference to try to change some analysts' views on the company.

"If we don't see any surprises, then it's definitely going to be a tough quarter for RIM in the smartphone market."

RIM debuted the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 models which come with both a physical keyboard and a touch screen. The new models will run on the BlackBerry 7 operating system, which includes an improved Web browser and better graphics.

RIM also unveiled numerous software developments, including a video chat and a Facebook app for its PlayBook tablet device.

Shares in Research In Motion closed down 30 cents at $45.79 in trading Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

On Friday, its shares dropped more than 14 per cent after RIM announced lower first-quarter profit expectations.