BlackBerry Has Potential as a Specialty Phone (Correct)

(Corrects story published at April 2 to say BlackBerry sold one million BB10 phones in the quarter.) NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In the first seasons of the CBS ( CBS) legal drama The Good Wife, the characters are always checking their BlackBerrys ( BBRY). They call, they text, they scroll through lists of messages. The subliminal message was that BlackBerrys were the "lawyers' phone," a serious tool for serious people.

By the show's second season specialty phones like the Blackberry were already giving way to the more general smartphone, starting with the iPhone, which later found its doppelganger in the Google ( GOOG) Android. Other operating systems collapsed, including BlackBerry, whose market share fell to 3.5% by the fourth quarter of 2012.

But could the specialty phone be coming back? Our Ronald Gruia reports that BlackBerry is rising again. BBRY reported sales of one million of its new phones, its BB10, in the quarter. They make other phones, and this doesn't include those sales.

Ronald writes that the quick ramp-up of a new BB10 ecosystem may be behind the fast start, but fast is relative in the phone world. A million phones may represent just a .25% share of the market, based on Gartner's market estimates for last year's fourth quarter.

What is most interesting about the Gartner numbers, in retrospect, isn't just that BlackBerry's one million sales for this year's first quarter wouldn't even make the main vendor list. The smallest maker listed by name is Motorola, which sold 7.8 million units during the quarter.

For me the big news is that the percentage of "other" actually increased, from 31.6% to 33.6%, year-to-year.

If "other" really is returning to prominence, maybe Facebook ( FB) has a chance. The company has sent all media an invitation to drop by its headquarters Thursday to see its "new home on Android," leading to speculation a new phone is coming. ( TheVerge.Com has many guesses about what might be coming).

As I noted last week, Facebook is as much a gaming platform as a social platform. A mobile device that had technology to make gamers go "wow," and was linked to a powerful gaming network, sounds like something that could deliver some profitable market share.

The "platform wars" concerning mobility seem pretty much finished. Gartner's numbers have Apple's iOS and Google's Android commanding over 90% of the market between them. But, partly because Google's platform is so open, that could mean differentiation has just begun.

There are as many possible phone specialties as there are people using phones. Phones could emphasize the quality of their cameras, their efficiency for business, their ruggedness for military and logistics use, or some specific app, as Facebook might do by creating a "home screen" for its Android users.

With a market of 1.75 billion units per year, a host of niches could be created. If BlackBerry can make a profit while selling just .25% of the market, so can many other companies.

For Apple ( AAPL), which both makes its own phones and produces its own phone operating system, this could prove the death of 1,000 cuts, each specialty phone taking a tiny slice of its market, all of them taking away its whole market unless it responds.

So a gamer's phone? A teen's phone? A lawyer's phone? Or how about a phone that focuses on giving you the latest financial news and views, with one-click access to your trading desk, a trading screen you hold in your hand that can also give you voice alerts when your screen is full.

As with Facebook, what starts with an app can take over the screen, can become the phone, and can target a small slice of the total market profitably.

I wonder if the editors are up for a TheStreet.com phone. I would hate to see some Fool Phone beat us to the market. Stay tuned.

At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG and AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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