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RIM Slouches Toward a Low Bar

The BlackBerry maker has been a bit bruised by Apple and Android's latest push.

NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Research In Motion

(RIMM)

is set to prove that the mighty BlackBerry isn't in a jam.

The Waterloo, Ont., smartphone shop is set to report earnings after the bell Thursday, and investors are approaching RIM with some caution.

The trepidation wasn't helped much by fresh reports of

yet another BlackBerry outage

affecting some users in the U.S. and Canada.

The big obstacle for RIM however is whether the BlackBerry maker can hold onto market share as

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone continues to gain momentum and

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

Android phones like the

Motorola

(MOT)

Droid start to catch on

.

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Wall Street will look for signs of strain in RIM's numbers after co-CEO Jim Balsillie vowed last quarter to go strong into the smartphone "land grab."

RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsille

One key area of focus is pricing and how much damage to margins price cuts may have caused in order to keep sales pumping.

Analysts' estimates call for RIM to post earnings of $1.04 a share on sales of $3.78 billion, a 36% increase over year-ago levels. And total phone shipments are expected to be about $9.5 million for the quarter ended last month.

RIM shares are down 23% in the past three months ever since the company pulled fiscal third quarter sales targets down below expectations.

But the pessimism may have dragged the stock too low, say RIM bulls.

The introduction of the

Motorola Droid

at

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

in October temporarily disrupted BlackBerry sales, wrote RBC analyst Mike Abramsky in a RIM preview a week ago. According to RBC's market checks, "momentum subsequently improved" for BlackBerry sales.

BlackBerry Storm

Similarly, MKM Partners analyst Tero Kuittinen says RIM is doing well in the U.K. and Europe. The solid demand gives Kuittinen some optimism about the year ahead, which may be evident in RIM's highly anticipated business outlook.

Analysts expect RIM to forecast fiscal fourth quarter of $1.12 on $4.1 billion in sales, a 19% year-over-year gain.

RIM shares were down 1% to $63.85 Thursday ahead of the earnings report.

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