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BlackBerry PlayBook 4GOnce again, Research in Motion’s attitude towards its dismal quarterly earnings sound inexplicably positive.

For the third quarter of 2011, RIM reported profits of just $265 million on $5.2 billion in revenue. That’s down from $329 million last quarter and $911 million (!) a year ago.

But it’s hard to tell that the company is in dire straits, given the tone of its earnings release. “RIM continues to have strong technology, unique service capabilities and a large installed base of customers, and we are more determined than ever to capitalize on our strengths to overcome the recent execution challenges surrounding product launches and the resulting financial performance,” co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis wrote in a statement today.

In truth, RIM is bleeding revenue badly, and if it doesn’t shape up its performance with new devices next year, it may not be able to last without being sold to another company.

The company shipped 14.1 million BlackBerry devices worldwide, up 33 percent from last quarter, most likely due to the launch of newer BlackBerry 7 devices. It also managed to reach 75 million customers, a 33 percent jump over last year. Revenues were up slightly 24 percent from the last quarter (not surprising, given the holiday sales bump), but were still down 6 percent from $5.5 billion last year.

But the PlayBook tablet didn’t fare nearly as well, shipping only 150,000 units. RIM announced earlier this month that it would take a $485 million hit during the quarter to account for its reduced PlayBook pricing.

RIM says that hardware accounted for 79 percent of its total revenues, while its service offerings made up 19 percent. Software and other revenue made up just 2 percent. The reported earnings were slightly below what Wall Street expected — though it would have been a longshot for RIM to actually outperform the street, given its stiff competition from the iPhone and Android.

Laziridis and Balsillie went on: “It may take some time to realize the benefits of these efforts and the platform transition that we are undertaking, but we continue to believe that RIM has the right set of strengths and capabilities to maintain a leading role in the mobile communications industry.” In other words, the company is going to continue performing poorly — until it doesn’t.

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