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BlackBerry's Sending Mixed Signals

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The surest way to anger investors is to say something remotely bearish about their stock. It matters very little if you're right or presented ample facts.

My inbox was filled with hate mail recently following my sell recommendation on BlackBerry (BBRY - Get Report) ahead of the company's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report.

While BlackBerry has indeed made progress since escaping the grasp of failed leadership, the company's still facing the daunting task of trying to regain its position atop the mobile food chain -- an environment now dominated by Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Samsung -- not exactly small potatoes.

Plus, once you throw Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Phone into the mix, it's hard to see a "glass half-full" scenario for BlackBerry regardless of any small victories the company may earn along the way. It's just not going to happen.

To that end, while fourth-quarter results were impressive, it's just not going to be enough.

Revenue arrived at roughly $2.7 billion, down 36% year over year from $4.2 billion. It's a glaring decline. But when compared to the third quarter, revenue was down only 2%. BlackBerry investors jumped for joy. However, it's a bit premature to believe that this company is back to growth.

That said, I'm willing to give management credit for slowing the pace of the decline. When compared to the year-over-year drop of the third quarter, revenue plummeted almost 50%.The company did extremely well selling its new flagship BlackBerry 10 phones, which was unveiled earlier in the quarter -- albeit to some mixed reviews.

Consequently, it was tough to make sales projections of the Z10 phones, which began selling in the U.S. last week after having already been on the market globally for almost two months. But sales exceeded expectations -- reaching one million units, or almost 10% higher than Street estimates of 915,000.

Again, the company deserves credit for this. But until BlackBerry's first-quarter results are announced, investors won't know how the all-important U.S. market feels about the new phones. But so far the glimpse is positive. Unfortunately, the upbeat numbers couldn't keep three million subscribers from churning out of the company's once-dominant service, which was another mixed signal.
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