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Apple, Microsoft, Make RIM's Road Rockier

WATERLOO, Ontario (TheStreet) -- Beleaguered handset maker Research In Motion (RIMM), which reports its fourth-quarter results after market close, continues to feel the pressure from Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) Android devices and, increasingly, Microsoft (MSFT) Windows phones.

RIM's fiscal fourth-quarter report after Thursday's close will be the first since new CEO Thorsten Heins took over from the embattled management duo of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. The incoming RIM chief faces a massive challenge turning RIM around.

RIM reports fourth-quarter results after market close.

"Our monthly channel checks indicated weak sell-through trends for BlackBerry 7 smartphones despite increased marketing efforts," explained Michael Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, in a note released on Thursday. "With strong share gains for the iPhone 4S, increasingly price-competitive Android smartphones, improving Windows smartphones, and strong initial sales trends for the new iPad, we anticipate increasing competition across all of RIM's products."

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect RIM to report revenue of $4.54 billion, and earnings of 81 cents a share, down from $5.6 billion and $1.78 a share in the prior year's quarter. RIM has forecast fourth-quarter revenue of between $4.6 billion and $4.9 billion, and earnings ranging from 80 to 85 cents a share.

"Our supply chain feedback is that BlackBerry continues to lose momentum to iOS and Android while Windows Phone appears to be gaining some traction," added Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, in a recent note.

Microsoft does not break out Windows phone shipments, although research firm Strategy Analytics recently estimated that global smartphone shipments based on the OS reached 2.7 million during the fourth quarter of 2011, a 36% sequential increase. Nokia (NOK), notes Strategy Analytics, overtook HTC to become the world's largest Microsoft smartphone vendor, with 33% market share.

While the estimated Windows Phones number pales when compared to the 37 million iPhones shipped during Apple's most recent quarter, it has been suggested that the software giant may surpass the BlackBerry user base as early as 2013.

TheStreet will be live-blogging RIM's fourth-quarter results, starting at 3.45 ET:

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