Nokia, RIM Fighting for Third Place, Winner May Take All

For Nokia and RIM, fighting for the industry's No. 3 spot, the real competition isn't Apple or Android, but each other. Worse, fourth place isn't really an option.

Before the arrival of the Apple iPhone and its gorgeous, intuitively understood touch-screen, or the open-source, make-it-your-own Android platform, Nokia and Research In Motion were kings of the mobile industry.

BlackBerry maker RIM€™s push email made it the only solution that business users had eyes for, and Nokia, with the support of Europe and beyond, held 53 percent of the world€™s €œsmart device market€ in 2007€”the year the iPhone arrived€”to No. 2 RIM€™s 11.4 percent and No. 3 Apple€™s 6.5 percent, according to Canalys.

Since then, both consumers and business users have made it known that they want iPhones, iPads, and smartphones and tablets running Android, giving rise to a fast-growing bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, industry, as IT managers hustle to support these once-unsanctioned devices. While RIM and Nokia have shown themselves to be unable to compete at the levels they once did, in the face of Apple and Android-running devices, the biggest competition each faces today€”both in the high-end U.S. smartphone market and low-cost, high-growth developing markets€”is the other.

Carriers want three platforms to support, and RIM and Nokia each need serious buy-in numbers to stay viable€”fourth place doesn€™t really exist.

€œNokia and RIM have been competing closely worldwide since Nokia launched the first of its E Series QWERTY phone portfolio in 2005,€ Neil Mawston, executive director of wireless device strategies at research firm Strategy Analytics, told eWEEK. €œThat battle has intensified in 2012, as RIM has been squeezed out of developed markets and forced to expand into midrange emerging markets like Indonesia and South Africa, territories where Nokia has traditionally dominated.€