Research in Motion must be starting to see the wisdom in that old political adage that no publicity is bad publicity – as long as they spell your name right.
RIM is, indeed, suddenly landing in the news on a near-daily basis – sometimes on a positive note, sometimes on a negative. Last week, it was a series of bullish analyst reports on its stock. This week has been filled with a bearish counterargument from Morgan Stanley, a depressing report on the company's now-minuscule U.S. market share from consumer research firm Kantar Worldpanel, and news that it lost a patent suit over its use of Nokia-developed WiFi technology.
On Thursday, the RIM headlines lurched back to the positive as Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to a "buy."
Whether it's good or bad, it all adds up to buzz, something RIM hasn't enjoyed for a while. The patent suits, the heated analyst bickering – why, it's positively Apple-esque, isn't it?
The impending launch of the new BlackBerry 10 platform on Jan. 30 has put RIM back in the smartphone and tablet conversation. On the one hand, there's talk that software application developers are ready to embrace the new technology and develop a wide range of BB10-friendly apps critical to wooing consumers to the devices. On the other hand, there are skeptics who aren't convinced the developers are that enthusiastic, who aren't sure BB10 will be that good, who think RIM is too far behind the development curve to ever catch up to its competitors.
But the mere fact there's so much talk around RIM and BB10 suggests the potential is back. Heck, even Nokia's patent suit – ultimately aimed in extracting royalties from RIM on future sales of its WiFi-capable devices – implies a vote of confidence from Nokia that RIM will actually have future sales worth talking about.
The Goldman report sums it up very nicely in saying that there's a "positive risk/reward" equation around BB10. Given how beaten-down RIM's stock and industry expectations have become, BB10 doesn't have to be brilliant; it just has to be good enough to put RIM back in the game. Given how far RIM's U.S. market share has fallen, it wouldn't take much at all to give it what would now be, on a percentage basis, pretty substantial sales increases. There's not much downside left for RIM; all the low-hanging fruit is on the upside.