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Analyst warns BlackBerry 10 won't be out until March

Still enough to beat off WinPhone 8 threat

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RIM's share price took another hit on Tuesday after a senior analyst warned investors that the Canadian firm's BlackBerry 10 operating system may not be out until March of next year.

"We had hoped for a Jan launch (guidance is for a CQ1 launch) but now see a March launch as more likely," said Jeffries and Co. analyst Peter Misek in a briefing note. "Also, our checks point to a tough Nov Q with replenishment rates decreasing as channel partners are cautious on holding RIM inventory."

Misek added that RIM was unlikely to be able to get third-party manufacturers like Samsung and HTC licensing the operating system for handsets until after the launch was ready, which will further slow deployment. With such a delay, channel partners are unlikely to invest in any more BlackBerry 7 handsets, which will erode the company's bottom line.

That would leave RIM dependent on its $2.3bn cash pile to make up any shortfall in revenues, but Misek predicts it will need up to a billion of that just to manufacture enough handsets to launch the new operating system and pay off developers.

The report isn’t just bad news for RIM, however. In a rather cutting analysis, Misek said that even this delay wouldn’t erode the Canadian firm's position enough for Microsoft to capitalize on its weakness and grab the number three spot in the market with Windows Phone 8.

"We still believe a third ecosystem will emerge, but the probability of BB10 filling the role is wholly dependent on whether RIM can convince Samsung, Huawei, and ZTE to license," he notes.

"Baidu, Huawei, and others are pursuing their own operating systems. We also see Win 8 as somewhat of a threat but conflicting reviews, less-than-stellar developer feedback, and a desire by Microsoft to make hardware directly make Win 8 unlikely to have better odds at becoming the third ecosystem than the previously mentioned new entrants, in our view."

Still, the news hit RIM's share price, which had been rallying after not-quite-as-bad-as-expected financial results announced last month. The stock is now on its way back down to around $7.80, although Misek forecast a fair guide price of $5 in his note. ®

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