They say it's always darkest before the dawn, but for Research in Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry phone line, the bad news just keeps on coming.
After a bleak earnings call last Thursday revealed that the company would have to lower its expectations for the upcoming year, RIM's stock plummeted 21 percent on Friday, and continued to fall another 5 percent on Monday, to its lowest value in five years. Financial research firm Sanford Bernstein downgraded the stock from "market perform" to "underperform."
To add to this headache, RIM has lost yet another executive. Brian Wallace, VP of digital marketing and media, has left the company for Samsung.
And he's not the first high-level employee the company has lost recently. Wallace follows Chief Marketing Officer Keith Pardy, who left in February, and Paul Kalbflesich, VP of brand creativity. Last week, RIM also announced that COO Don Morrison had left on medical leave.
In another departure should also raise warning flags for anyone watching the company, Seesmic, a third-party Twitter client, announced today that it would discontinue support for BlackBerry phones at the end of June. The move comes so that Seesmic can "focus development efforts on our most popular mobile platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone."
GigaOm wondered if Seesmic's action could be the start of a "stampede," postulating that while "one developer certainly doesn’t make a trend," that with "RIM’s slowing sales growth and lengthy transition to a new mobile smartphone platform, this could be the beginning of a terrible trend for BlackBerry devices."
To top it all off, a report by BGR accuses RIM of knowingly forcing carriers to release defective BlackBerry phones in an effort to ensure that the company can avoid further delays on product launches. According to BGR's "very reliable source", RIM has been "strong-arming several carriers, essentially forcing them to approve devices they normally would not move through the Technical Acceptance phase," by putting "an enormous amount of pressure" on them."
Manufacturers usually test phones internally before sending to carriers for approval. If rejected, they must spend weeks to create new build, ultimately slowing a release by months. BGR says that "certain carriers will be approving the devices, 'no matter what — with bugs and problems' and that RIM is also putting "huge pressure on its internal engineers to deliver Technical Acceptance bundles even when there are serious problems with the OS." Apparently, "multiple devices" in the past have been pushed through in such a manner, accounting for buggy phones in the hands of consumers.
Of course, RIM has reason to worry about delays. The company has already delayed the release of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 to fall, from its original expected release this summer. During the earnings call, RIM further announced that the PlayBook 4G, which was also supposed to be launched this summer, will be delayed to fall as well.