RIM Numbers: Not Louder Than Doom

Updated with RIM stock price.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors have set a low bar for Research In Motion ( RIMM), which reports its August quarter results after the bell today.

( TheStreet will be live-blogging RIM's results and conference call starting at 3:45 ET.)

Wall Street has turned sour on RIM this year as the typically nimble tech shop has been left flat-footed in a race against Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone and Google ( GOOG) Android devices.

Reflecting RIM's falling market share, the company's shares are down 33% this year. The awful slide has given RIM the dismal distinction of being the big laggard in the phonemaker sector. And this is a group that includes imploding phone giant Nokia.

Can it be all that bad?

Yes. RIM is late to the touch-screen trend. And rivals have now pretty much caught up with the league-leading BlackBerry email service.

But RIM has shown some fight. The new 3G Curve, while probably the last gasp of the popular Curve franchise, is currently a big seller in the U.S. and abroad.

The new touch-screen Torch, running on the upgraded BlackBerry 6, is arguably decent enough to keep BlackBerry fans from becoming Apple or Android fans, although the Torch isn't quite the knockout in sales at AT&T ( T) that fans had hoped for.

Analysts are looking for RIM to post earnings of $1.35 a share on sales of $4.47 billion, according to Yahoo! Finance. Analysts also expect the company to sell 11.8 million phones at an average price of $300, while adding 5 million net new BlackBerry service subscribers, according to a tally by StreetAccount.

The looming concern centers around RIM's outlook amid a hotly-competitive smartphone market. Analysts are looking for sales growth in the November quarter to be 8% above the August quarter levels. But with new products like the Torch and the upcoming BlackPad tablet device, margins are expected to get squeezed. Analysts expect RIM to report that August quarter's gross margin was 43.9%, with higher costs narrowing that margin to 42.5% in the November period.

The takeaway: RIM may clear the low bar of earnings expectations, but Wall Street won't be applauding too loudly for a player that's still stuck in the loser's bracket.

RIM shares closed up 2% Thursday ahead of earnings as investors looked for a small upside surprise after weeks of doom and gloom about the BlackBerry maker.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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