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RIM Earnings Grow as PlayBook Set to Launch

Smartphone vendor Research in Motion (RIM) (NASDAQ:RIMM) is hoping to hit a home run with the upcoming launch of the PlayBook tablet platform.

RIM this week reported its fourth quarter and full year fiscal 2011 earnings, showing growth in the smartphone market as competition from Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platform continues to mount.

RIM reported fiscal 2011 revenue of $19.9 billion, a 33 percent year-over-year increase. Net Income for the year was reported at $3.4 billion, or $6.34 per share, which is a 47 percent year-over-year increase. For the fourth quarter of 2011, revenues came in at $5.6 billion, up by 36 percent from the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010. Net Income for the third quarter was $934 million, which is an increase over the reported Net Income of $710 million for the same quarter last year.

Overall, RIM reported that it shipped 52.3 million smartphones in fiscal 2011, with 14.9 million smartphones shipped during the fourth quarter.

Moving forward, RIM provided first quarter fiscal 2012 revenue guidance in the range of $5.2 to $5.6 billion.

The big driver for RIM's continued growth is expected to come from its new PlayBook tablet platform which is set to launch on April 19th. In addition to apps specifically built for the PlayBook, the new platform will also run Java and Android apps as well.

"The launch of the PlayBook will be the most significant development for RIM since the launch of the first BlackBerry device back in 1999," Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO at Research In Motion said during the company's earnings call.

Balsillie stressed that he expects the PlayBook to be a highly successful launch for RIM. He noted that many existing BlackBerry enterprise customers including a good portion of the Fortune 500, will receive PlayBooks for review in the coming weeks.

"Many enterprise customers have told us that they have delayed their tablet deployment plans in anticipation of the PlayBook launch," Balsillie said.

The PlayBook leverages the QNX operating system. Balsillie noted that PlayBook marks the birth of a new future-proof architecture, based on the QNX operating system that will benefit bothfuture tablet products and future BlackBerry smartphones.

"We have a powerful roadmap for fiscal 2012 , not only for PlayBook with 4G versions on track to launch later this year, but also for BlackBerry 6.1 based smartphones," Balsillie said.

Balsillie noted that the BlackBerry 6.1 operating system will offer significant enhancements on performance and fidelity compared to BlackBerry 6.0. He added that the upcoming set of releases will include full QWERTY, hybrid and full touch screen models.

"These will be followed by a QNX based BlackBerry superphone that will fully leverage our current investments and is scheduled to hit the market in calendar 2012," Balsillie said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.