updated 10:40 am EDT, Thu June 25, 2009
Kaufman Bros on RIM Jun 09
Research in Motion is potentially in trouble as discounts it has been counting on for its smartphones are about to end, according to Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu. Citing checks, he claims Verizon's popular buy one, get one (BOGO) promo for the BlackBerry Curve 8330 should end on Saturday the 27th and that it will effectively boost the price of a BlackBerry Storm as a result. Although less expensive than the original $199 launch price, the Storm will move to a fixed $149 price but won't qualify for a BOGO discount that took it down to $99, effectively giving buyers a free extra phone for the Storm's regular price.
The analyst warns that either change is dangerous and could limit RIM's potential growth. Verizon had reportedly intended to cancel BOGO in March but has likely kept it alive to compete against AT&T's smartphone offerings, and the iPhone in particular. Dropping the discount hurts RIM by discouraging families from buying more than one BlackBerry and also affects Verizon by reducing the income from data plans.
Compounding the issue is an apparent delay in launching the BlackBerry Tour in the US. Although rumored to ship as early as July, the CDMA flagship now isn't expect to ship for either Sprint or Verizon until August. Sprint reportedly wants to avoid damaging Palm Pre sales so soon after launch, and Verizon wants to avoid qualifying the Tour for BOGO discounts.
RIM has been optimistic in forecasts for its summer sales, anticipating a record 8.1 million BlackBerries shipped, but with the apparent new pricing strategies would be challenged on both the high and low ends of its line. Carrier delays for the Tour would give the iPhone 3GS two months' lead time for customers who prefer the iPhone to the now aging Storm. A price drop for the 8GB iPhone 3G to $99 also puts Apple's smartphone on equal footing with the Curve and actually under the cost of the Pearl Flip at Verizon; without the BOGO discount, these BlackBerries may be seen as inferior for the price compared to the entry iPhone.