RIM Shares Slide as Droid Debut Nears

rim logoResearch In Motion has fared well as the smartphone space expands beyond business users into the mainstream, but the Canadian manufacturer is in danger of losing ground as Android picks up steam. Shares of RIM slid this morning after Citigroup downgraded the stock from “buy” to “sell” — calling the Android OS “compelling” — and Deutsche Bank in an analyst note today cited a distinct lack of marketing support from Verizon Wireless for the BlackBerry Storm 2:

We think the original Storm did well in large part thanks to Verizon’s marketing support. This time around it looks less likely that Verizon will step up, not with the Motorola Droid primed to ship, and the Palm Pre in the batter’s circle warming up for Q1. While RIM may be able to eke out a good quarter filling the channel at Verizon, we think the outlook for RIM is worsening.

Recent AdMob figures list only two BlackBerry models in the top 25 handsets used to access the mobile Internet, Deutsche Bank noted, underscoring RIM’s vulnerability in the consumer space. And RIM’s long-held dominance in the enterprise segment may be at risk, Deutsche Bank said, as businesses open their e-mail to ActiveSync-capable phones in response to the rising popularity of the iPhone and other high-powered, easy-to-use handsets. Microsoft’s ActiveSync is a popular program for sharing documents and other information between desktop PCs and mobile devices and is supported by the iPhone, Droid and other consumer-targeted handsets.

RIM still boasts an impressive number of loyal business users, and its strategy of partnering with multiple carriers in the U.S. and other markets continues to pay dividends. And with the purchase of Torch Mobile, RIM finally seems to be paying attention to the web-browsing functionality that’s becoming a must-have feature for most smartphone users. But a dearth of marketing support from the nation’s largest wireless carrier would be a major blow for RIM, and the manufacturer must come up with a hit handset soon or it will be left in the dust of the iPhone, the Droid and other consumer-friendly superphones.

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