It would difficult to find a better example of near-total meltdown in the tech economy that Canada's Research in Motion, maker of the once-iconic but now nearly irrelevant BlackBerry smartphone. The stock traded at nearly $150 a share at its peak in 2008.
It's now barely above $11.
But that in itself is the story this Black Friday as all of Canada rejoices! Well, maybe not. But RIM is showing its first signs of life in months, up a whopping 13-plus percent in trading Friday.
What's driving this is growing optimism that the company's new BlackBerry 10 operating system and and new lineup of touchscreen phones (better than some of its previous, much-derided touchscreen phones) will enable the company to get back into the smartphone wars, duking it out with Apple and Samsung to retake some of its lost market share.
Analysts who follow RIM are starting to see some value in a company that, while battered, still has a lot of users - and, importantly, no debt on its balance sheet. The firm really is just one device away from telling a new story about itself, and that translates into some meaningful upside potential.
BB10 has been delayed, but details are starting to leak out and RIM is beginning to showcase the new phone (see video, below). There's nothing radical on the horizon, but RIM does seem to have joined Microsoft in proposing sone revisions to the Apple-centric view of how a smartphone is supposed to look, feel, and function. At its core, BB10 has placed the emphasis on multitasking, offering the ability for users to keep numerous apps running simultaneously.
There's no way around it: RIM needs BB10 to succeed. Urgently. Former bastions of RIM — businesses and government agencies that valued the company's emphasis on security over style — have begun to defect to Apple and Android. RIM needs to win them back and shore up its base, capturing the millions of current BlackBerry loyalists who plan to dump their phones with the next upgrade cycle.
Who knows, it may even be able to win Hollywood agents back. Ari Gold of "Entourage" was a BlackBerry guy just a couple of years ago.
If RIM can pull this off, its could stage a comeback that would be Apple-esque (although in the long run, probably not as wildly lucrative for RIM investors — Apple went from near-bankruptcy in the late 1990s to the world's most valuable company now). It's had a horrible few years. Its back is against the wall. No one seems to want to buy it. But if BB10 is a hit, the company may remember Black Friday as the day RIM finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel.