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Apple, RIM said to be on ¿collision course¿

Even as Apple revels in the sales successes of the iPhone 3G, the reigning king of smart phone market share – Research in Motion – is preparing to launch as many as three new BlackBerry models.

According to Rockville, Md., -based ChangeWave Research, this scenario puts Apple and RIM "on a collision course in the consumer smart phone market."

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In a follow-up to its June survey, which showed RIM leading Apple among consumers with 42 percent of the market versus 11 percent, ChangeWave asked its members how likely they would be to buy one of the new BlackBerries.

Each of the models – the already announced "Bold" as well as two other expected variations, the "Thunder" and the "Kickstart" – showed "considerable potential among consumers."

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The most expensive of the new BlackBerries, the $299-$399 Bold, proved the most popular, with 17 percent saying they'd be very likely or somewhat likely to buy it. The middle model, Thunder ($199-$299), generated a bit less interest (15 percent) and Kickstart, with the cheapest price range ($149-$199), the least interest (13 percent).

One would expect the opposite, particularly given Apple's findings that its customers wanted a cheaper iPhone (Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in his WWDC keynote that the number one reason people didn't buy iPhones is because they just can't afford it (56%)."

Then again, it could be that Apple and RIM may not be competing for as many of the same customers as one might think.

Another question sorted the data by which brand of phone the respondent already owned. Of current RIM customers, 47 percent were very likely or somewhat likely to go for the Bold, for example.

Only 9 percent of current iPhone owners said they'd be likely to buy a Bold. Even fewer (6 percent) would be likely buy the cheaper Kickstart. Only 2 percent expressed interest in the Thunder.

Most of the phone makers didn't enjoy that kind of loyalty. Among Palm customers, 31 percent were willing to try the Bold. Other manufacturers had numbers ranging from 11 percent (LG) to 15 percent (Samsung). Only Nokia had customers nearly as loyal as Apple's, with numbers in the 8 to 10 percent range.

ChangeWave predicts these "second-tier" players will suffer "as the two Goliaths battle for market place dominance."

The new data indicate Palm will get hit the hardest, adding to the evidence from ChangeWave's June survey: Palm's market share dropped from 29 percent in April 2007 to 14 percent in June.

The next ChangeWave smart phone market share survey is due in the fall (usually the data is released in October). Stay tuned.

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