The challenges continue for Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, as do questions about the company's future direction.

RIM posted another drop in profit Thursday after the market close, sending the stock to a 52-week low in after-hours trading. But the drop in profit wasn't a big surprise to the market. Investors are concerned that RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) gave a dismal outlook for BlackBerry shipments during the Christmas holidays and said it is delaying QNX phones.

The matter that they turned in a bad quarter shouldn't come as a shock to anybody, John Jackson, an analyst at CCS Insight in Boston, told Reuters. I think the more important issue for RIM is that it is highly unclear exactly when they're going to be able turn things around.

At one time RIM's BlackBerry was the global smartphone leader. But that was before Apple's iPhone was launched in 2007, quickly becoming the world's most popular smartphone. Now, it's not just Apple RIM is having trouble keeping up with. RIM said it will ship just 11 million to 12 million smartphones in the weeks around Christmas, the first time in six years the company has experienced such a steep decline in the period.

Already, several firms have downgraded RIM on the news. BMO Capital downgraded the company Friday morning to Market Perform from Outperform over concerns related to BlackBerry 7.0 sales and the delay for BlackBerry 10.0 devices. The price target was lowered to $15 from $26. And Citigroup lowered its price target to $12 from $15 Friday morning.

RIM's stock fell in after-hours trading Thursday more than 7 percent, to $13.76. Its previous 52-week low was $14.80 after trading as high as $70.54 this year. The Waterloo, Canada-based company said Thursday its third-quarter profit dropped 27 percent.

RIM did show a profit in the quarter ending Nov. 26. RIM earned an adjusted profit of $667 million, or $1.27 a share. But that figure does not include, according to Reuters, a large writedown on unsold PlayBook tablets or charges associated with the company's global services outage earlier this year.

RIM had revenue of $5.2 billion in the third quarter. Analysts were expecting RIM to earn $1.19 per share on sales of $5.65 billion. The company had warned on Dec. 2 that its earnings and revenue would be lower than previous expectations.

Despite the results spooking investors, RIM said in a statement it is more determined that ever to capitalize on our strengths to overcome the recent execution challenges surrounding product launches and the resulting financial performance.