Is This Stock Worth Holding Onto?
Subhadeep is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
When I had earlier spoken out in favor of Canadian smartphone maker Research in Motion’s (NASDAQ: BBRY) prospects in emerging countries, there was a small condition attached – the company had to get the pricing and promotion right. While the promotional part was taken care of, the pricing strategy went horribly wrong.
The shocking price tag
Let’s face it. Blackberry smartphones are still a big draw among young consumers in cost-conscious markets such as India and Indonesia. This is mainly due to the company’s widely popular Blackberry Messenger Service (BBM), coupled with affordable data plans. That’s precisely why I still can’t fathom the logic behind the company’s decision to stick to a near-$800 price tag in India for an otherwise widely anticipated and aspirational phone – the Blackberry Z10.
Come to think of it, even two of rival Samsung’s best-selling high-end phones, the Galaxy S III and the Note II, are priced considerably lower than that. And if CEO Thorsten Heins and company are waxing eloquent about the product being an absolute sellout, let’s not forget the small amount of phones shipped initially – a common industry strategy to boost demand.
Blackberry’s loss is Nokia’s gain
Getting the pricing wrong when you just have one product to show up for your efforts since 2010 is marketing hara-kiri for a company that derives about 65% of its overall revenue from countries other than the US, UK and Canada. That again provides one more reason to celebrate for another smartphone laggard Nokia (NYSE: NOK), that has made quick and successful inroads into emerging markets with its largely sub-$200 ‘Asha’ range of touchscreen and qwerty-enabled phones. At the same time, Nokia has already carved out a clever marketing strategy where its more high-end Lumia range of phones are already selling at different and more affordable price points.
A bleak US scenario
Coming back to the US which makes up for about 19% of Blackberry’s earnings, all eyes are focused on the Z10’s March 22 AT&T launch. That’s because the company witnessed a rapid fall from grace since the 2007 launch of Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iconic iPhone, with roughly a 44% fall in market share, as per data from research firm IDC. On the other hand, the iPhone commands around 51% market share, with another around 44% attributed to Google’s Android-based phones, as per Kantar Worldpanel. With that in mind, a delayed launch of its newest and best product in the US, for whatever reasons that might be, is hardly a reason to feel comfortable about Blackberry.
The ‘enterprise’ factor holds the key
But there’s something else about the US that Blackberry needs to be really careful about. That’s because this is a market where its strongest ally, the enterprise segment, might not provide adequate support. The current BYOD (Bring Your Own device) trend has meant that an increasing number of corporate employees are bringing their personal iPhones or Android-powered smartphones to office.
The company’s famed 80 million-strong enterprise user base has already been targeted by Apple, Samsung and Nokia. While Samsung has already made its intentions clear with the introduction of its Knox security software at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Nokia’s association with Windows should help it to grab a fair share of the enterprise segment as well. That’s because Windows is still the corporate customer’s favorite software.
Coming back to Apple, its rumored launch of a low-cost iPhone might be the final nail in the coffin for Blackberry, as enterprises that buy phones in bulk for their employees would certainly welcome a cheaper alternative and that too, coming from the country’s top smartphone maker.
At the same time, the Blackberry has already lost its appeal to mainstream customers in the US. And the lack of adequate apps on the BB10 operating system proves to be of no help either. By now it’s probably clear that the chips are heavily down for Blackberry. The $199 on contract Blackberry Z10 might find it difficult to even compete with the free on contract iPhone 4. And we’re talking about a product that’s already two generations old.
The results should be out soon
While the company’s quarterly results to be declared on March 28 should provide a peek into how it’s faring in emerging markets, the very next quarter would be the one for investors to take a final decision about the stock as the US market share becomes apparent. I’ll also keep an eye open for the qwerty keypad-enabled Q10 launch, given the fact that loyal Blackberry users have always favored the physical keyboard phone models over the touchscreen varieties. Hold onto this stock for just a wee bit more. At least your confusion is unlikely to last long.
Subhadeep Ghose has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!