Research In Motion Ltd (BBRY), BlackBerry: Can the Smartphone Underdog Pull Off an Upset?

You’re going to have to forgive the sports metaphor this time; it’s March Madness and the NCAA tournament seems pretty inescapable right now. Still, there’s always room for a bit of a Cinderella story in the media.

Research in Motion Ltd. (BBRY)

That applies to both sports and the markets. Harvard’s first ever NCAA tournament victory over New Mexico is a case in point. The brainy guys from Boston were the #14 seed in their bracket and still defeated a team that was stronger, bigger and more experienced. Good for them, and I hope it continues.

The parallel is easy to make for smartphone maker Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY). Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) was formerly the smartest guy in the market, with its phones almost universally adopted by business and political leadership. Even the president was in love with his and had one specially made to comply with the presidential archiving requirements when he took office.

Still, that didn’t keep Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) on top. The true revolution in smartphones over the last four or five years has shown that those who stand still get passed as the technology and culture of mobile devices evolves very quickly. That happened to BlackBerry as new devices with better functionality and marketing took over. Now BlackBerry is fighting to become the third most popular smartphone out there.

Still, there’s room for an upset and maybe even a Cinderella story. The Z10 is being well received, but execs are being cautious in not predicting a market share outcome for 2013. Still, an upset would be for it to grow from a current market share of 4.6% to 7% by the end of the year. A Cinderella story comeback would see it at 20% by the end of 2014.

Not that such a move will be easy in this environment, of course. Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) will face continual, well-heeled competition from serious players in the market.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Apple is the most visible competitor. No one can seriously argue that the iPhone didn’t entirely change the smartphone discussion. However, the company’s recent troubles do open up a bit of daylight for BlackBerry. By hurting the aura of Apple invincibility, the recent criticism of Apple makes Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) appear to be more of a viable alternative to the fifteenth version of the iPhone. Apple has the muscle to stay in the market and compete, but the era of dominance may be over for the folks from One Infinite Loop.