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Can Blackberry Rise From the Dead and Win Back Canada?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I spent some time in Canada this past summer -- in Toronto and Niagara Falls, Ontario -- and noticed a scarcity of Blackberry (BBRY - Get Report) smartphones on the streets.

That's a big deal because it not only reflects the abrupt end of North America's Crackberry addiction, but it shows, if only anecdotally, that Canadians, somewhere along the line, broke the ties that once bind them to the artist formerly known as RIM.

And now, at least according to comScore, the numbers bear out my anecdote.

In Canada, only one in five smartphone subscribers use the Blackberry platform. Google's (GOOG - Get Report) Android and Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) iOS combine for 75% of the Canadian market at 40% and 35%, respectively.

Canada is not a throwaway market. In the same report, comScore shows that Canadians lead the way in terms of uptake and engagement metrics across platforms:
  • The number of Canadian smartphone subscribers increased by 17% in 2012.
  • Thirty-seven percent of Canadian smartphone subs watch TV and/or video on their device; up 21 percentage points year-over-year.
  • Canadians spend more than 41 hours online on the desktop each month; that's second worldwide. They lead the world in terms of number of pageviews and visits per visitor.

I liken Blackberry to my Toronto Maple Leafs. Over the weekend at (excuse while I attempt to make myself look cool) #SXSW, I talked to a Canadian who made a good point about the Leafs. They have been a pretty bad team to watch these last few years, but, finally, this season they're playing with some grit. They're fun to watch and going about what remains a tough slog the right way.

Coaches from other teams -- most recently Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien -- now praise the Leafs as a formidable, hard working opponent. If they make the playoffs -- and it looks like they will -- they could make some noise. And, really, at this stage of the Leafs' development, you can't ask for much more than a hard-fought visit to round one of the postseason. Anything more is unexpected gravy.

You don't need to be a sports fan to see the analogy. Blackberry operates in a similar situation. Canadians have a special place in their hearts for the company and the device. They'll come back to it out of, if nothing else, comfort and national pride. And, as much as the Canadian market is growing, there's still millions about to make the switch from feature phone to smartphone.
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