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RIM's latest earnings call: 500K PlayBooks shipped, layoffs coming

RIM's latest earnings call: 500K PlayBooks shipped, layoffs coming

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The press release for RIM's fiscal Q1 2012 earnings call just hit the wires; by all appearances, there's not a lot to celebrate. The top question on everyone's mind is the PlayBook's retail performance, of course, and it's nothing to write home about: RIM is claiming 500,000 units shipped in the quarter -- the model's first quarter of retail availability. Again, that's the number shipped, not sold, and considering the number of PlayBooks I regularly see on store shelves, I would imagine that a significant percentage of that 500,000 remains in retailers' hands. We don't have hard statistics on the total number of Honeycomb tablets sold so far, but if you use Google's latest platform distribution stats and the assumption that 100 million Android devices have been activated so far, that works out to 600,000 tablets in the field (with a little bit more retail time than the PlayBook's had).

Net income is down roughly 10 percent over the same quarter last year -- $695 million versus $769 million -- and it's down some $239 million from the quarter prior (though fourth quarters typically perform unusually well thanks to the holiday shopping season). In light of the downturn, the company is announcing a "cost optimization program" that'll include layoffs and a "realignment" to focus on high-growth areas of the company. As it has over the past year or so, RIM's quick to note that it's performing quite well internationally -- a 67 percent growth in international revenue year over year, in fact -- and gross margin was "slightly higher than expected," which suggests that it's having more luck selling cheap devices than expensive ones. Emerging markets will certainly do that for you.

On a related note, RIM COO Don Morrison is stepping out on medical leave, though he expects to return later this year. The timing certainly isn't great in light of its precarious product and financial positions, but just like the dual CEOs, RIM actually has three COOs -- we imagine they'll find ways to pick up the slack through the existing team and interim appointments.

Here's the kicker: RIM has revised its full-year 2012 outlook way down from "in excess of $7.50" per share to $5.25 - $6, a cut of 20 to 29 percent. That certainly indicates a lower level of confidence than outspoken bosses Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are accustomed to exuding. The company blames the downturn in part to delayed product introductions "into the very late part of August," likely referring to the Bold Touch -- a hotly-anticipated new model running BlackBerry 7 that we're sure Waterloo would love to get on the market just as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, WiMAX, LTE, and HSPA+ versions of the PlayBook are now slated for fall; Sprint had originally expected its WiMAX model this summer, so it looks like we can chalk that up as another slip.