Research In Motion Earnings Sneak Peek: Variables to Watch

Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), maker of popular Blackberry brand phones, is set to report its first quarter earnings this afternoon. Results are expected to fall somewhat short of shareholders’ expectations. The company had previously warned that weaker smart phone sales — it continues to lose market share to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) — will take a toll on this quarter’s earnings, though the severity of the bleeding will be revealed later today.

According to one Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) analyst, the company has only itself to blame for weaker competitiveness, “We believe RIMM has now squandered nearly every opportunity and competitive advantage it enjoyed through ineffective R&D resource management, delayed product launches and misreads of the competitive environment.”

In case you hadn’t realized (hey, I didn’t know) Research in Motion released a tablet, “Playbook” that hit stores in North America just weeks ago, and the company is prepping for the products’ international launch in the second quarter. The new tablet will be hard pressed to compete with the Apple iPad, which sold over 2 million units in its first two months on the market. RIMM expects to ship a total 700,000 Playbooks in the second quarter, which doesn’t bode well for sales (if you compare them to Apple).

The earnings statement today is also expected to include details regarding the launch of RIMMs new blackberry models, details on shipment figures, and financial data from activity in vital emerging markets (such as Latin America).

Analysts expect Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) to report earnings of $1.32 a share on revenue of $5.1 billion for the first quarter, and $1.36 a share on revenue of $5.4 billion in the current quarter.

For more on why RIMM sales are floundering, check out these exclusive Wall St. Cheat Sheet features: “Smartphone Wars” and “Why is Research in Motion Crashing and Burning?