NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- We are only a few games out of the spring season training and already some are calling who is going to win the world series of smartphones. Stories abound how Research In Motion (RIMM) should all but be written off by users and investors alike.
Some pundits have already declared Apple (APPL) the winner, with possibly Google (GOOG) becoming a spoiler if only to keep things entertaining. Even Microsoft (MSFT), arguably the most powerful software company in the world has been declared by some to be unfit to take the field.
Granted, it's doubtful that a "Wild Thing" sporting black rimmed glasses hitter is going to put RIM back in the No. 1 spot in North America this season or next. However, if we have learned anything about the smartphones space, we have learned the ground shifts quickly.A short three years ago, Palm (PALM) produced the PRE and for a while the PRE was the darling of smartphones. Almost as quickly as the PRE hit the market, Palm became nothing more than a new headache for its acquirer Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Unfortunately for HP, the best product to come from the Palm purchase was the HP TouchPad. To say the HP TouchPad with webOS struck out would be kind. Before the PRE, HP had a winning smartphone. The quad-band GSM/GPRS HP iPaq was advanced and popular. The iPaq had it all, Internet, big screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Pocket PC OS by Microsoft, and built-in camera. Currently, HP is little more than a case study in allowing market share to slip away. Sprint (S), AT&T (T), and Verizon (VZ) may have had to sell their collective souls to put iPhones on the showroom floor, and each may have made the right choice at the time of signing, but it remains to be seen if the indentured servitude each cell phone carrier owes to Apple will be enough to keep RIM from a comeback. Sprint was the last carrier to sign what must have felt like a 30-year mortgage with Apple, but the strategy does appear to be paying off. One could argue Apple's dominance, along with volume commitments by the largest three carriers, guarantees RIM will perpetually face an uphill battle.
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