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Apple, Microsoft, Make RIM's Road Rockier

Guilty of taking its eye off the ball at a crucial point in the smartphone game, RIM has bled market share. The Canadian firm has also been rocked by delayed product launches and its besieged former management team. As a result, investors have lost faith in RIM during the last 12 months, pushing its shares down more than 76%. Apple shares, in contrast, have risen 74% while Microsoft has climbed more than 24% over the same period.

In a note released last week, Citigroup predicted that RIM's fourth-quarter results will likely be in-line with analysts' estimates, but warned that the company's guidance may disappoint.

"We expect investors to focus on full year outlook (though we do not believe the company will provide this) and any update to the timeline for the new phones that RIMM is planning to launch in the second half of 2012," explained Citigroup analyst Jim Suva, in a note. RIM, he added, is at risk of missing the 2012 back-to-school season thanks to delaying its next QNX-based BlackBerry products to the second half of this year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are currerntly looking for RIM to report second-quarter revenue of $4.255 billion and earnings of 66 cents a share. For the coming fiscal year, analysts are looking for sales of $17.31 billion and earnings of $2.74 a share.

Sterne Agee's Wu, however, thinks that RIM's guidance may not be as bad as anticipated.

"Due to much lowered expectations with the Street cutting estimates aggressively over the past few weeks, we believe RIM may report a decent quarter and guide less worse than expected," he explained, in a note released on Thursday. "Because of this, we would not be surprised to see a near-term relief rally in RIM shares."

Wu, however, has a neutral rating on RIM's shares, citing concerns with the company's fundamentals and its upcoming transition to the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

RIM's shares dipped 6 cents, or 0.44%, to $13.61 on Thursday.

-- Written by James Rogers in New York.

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