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RIM Rivals Gear Up

The case against Research In Motion (RIMM) focuses on two threats to the company: competition and a long-running patent dispute.

While the BlackBerry maker has suffered a string of setbacks on the legal front , the competitive threat hasn't amounted to much so far. But that might be changing.

On Wednesday, Nokia (NOK - Get Report) announced plans to purchase Intellisync (SYNC - Get Report), a wireless software company. The move unites the world's biggest handset maker with one of the leading second-tier players in the market to deliver email, applications and other data to mobile devices.

But the acquisition is only the latest in a series of moves by RIM's rivals that could call into question the company's continued dominance in wireless email, all of which signal that RIM's business will soon be commoditized, says Dave Schamens, a partner at Invictus Funds.

"There's no question that RIM has got a great product, but these other guys are chomping at the bit to bypass RIM's monopoly," he says. Whether Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report), Palm (PALM), Intellisync, Nokia or someone else is the winner is unclear, but "RIM is going down no matter what," adds Schamens, whose firm is long Microsoft but has no other positions in the space.

Investors as a whole seemed to express similar feelings doubts after Nokia's announcement. RIM's shares closed Wednesday off $2.82, or 4%, to $64.68.

The deal is targeted at enterprise and other business customers, Nokia said in a statement, and the acquisition will potentially allow it to deliver email and other data to a range of devices -- both those made by the company and those made by rivals such as Palm or Motorola (MOT).

Intellisync is just one company that's been trying to edge into RIM's turf. On the software side, giants such as Microsoft and Novell (NOVL) and smaller companies such as privately held Good Technology and Seven offer wireless email services. On the hardware side, most of the major vendors -- in addition to Nokia -- have come out with devices that can tap into corporate email servers.

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