RIM's challenges about to multiply

Research in Motion still has the leading smartphone platform, but its lead is looking more tenuous by the day. Can it fend off Apple's iOS, Android and maybe Windows Phone 7?

Research in Motion still has the leading smartphone platform in the U.S., but its lead is looking more tenuous by the day.

ComScore released its August smartphone market share tally and the three month moving averages don't look good for RIM.

As you can see from that chart, RIM took the biggest market share hit. Microsoft was another big loser, but that's to be expected. Microsoft is sunsetting Windows Mobile and the Windows Phone 7 debut is on deck. In fact, you'd expect Microsoft to lose more market share.

RIM isn't sunsetting anything. It has the Torch and BlackBerry OS 6.0. However, RIM is using a new operating system for

its PlayBook tablet, which at this point is just a demo.

Simply put, the storm clouds are brewing for RIM. Among the moving parts:

  • Apple's iPhone could be coming to Verizon. If that scenario actually plays out, RIM will effectively be crowded out at the major carrier. Indeed, Motorola's Droid Pro is designed to be a BlackBerry killer. Wedbush analyst Scott Sutherland said:
  • We believe a Verizon iPhone will eat into sales of RIM, Motorola, and other key Verizon handset vendors. While this has been somewhat anticipated, we believe this could accelerate RIM’s market share losses in North America.

  • Android devices keep coming. ComScore's data as well as other firms note that Android devices are gobbling up market share. This market share often comes at RIM's expense.
  • Windows Phone 7 may hit RIM too. A wave of Windows Phone 7 devices are on deck. Corporations will at least give Windows Phone 7 a look and the operating system already looks fresher than what RIM has to offer.

  • RIM is not the enterprise lock it used to be. Good Technology, a rival to RIM, is going gaga for Android devices and partnering with Verizon. Good also released a study today showing that its enterprise activations are heavily skewing toward Apple iOS and Android devices. These activations are a good indicator of what non-BlackBerry devices are playing well in the enterprise.

Now all is not lost for RIM. BlackBerry devices consume less bandwidth and that's always going to be a hit for carriers. Meanwhile, security is a selling point for RIM. If countries are complaining that RIM's security is a risk to them I'd take that as one helluva commercial. RIM also has a vast intellectual property portfolio.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said RIM has secret weapons, but is under siege.

With the blurring of the Tablet, PC, and smartphone market, RIM has tremendous growth prospects in our opinion; however, RIM’s strongholds are currently aggressively under siege with market share losses likely in the enterprise and domestic markets.

Simply put, how RIM manages through the Android and Apple onslaught will largely determine how relevant it remains in this generation of smartphones.