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Apple iPhone Raining On BlackBerry Storm's Parade

Despite all the hype, the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm was not powerful enough to soak up the Apple iPhone's smart phone share.

Citing anonymous sources, the The Wall Street Journal , indicated that Verizon Wireless managed to sell only about 500,000 of the first-ever touch-screen BlackBerry smart phones in its first month. The Storm became available on Nov. 21.

The BlackBerry Storm, which was seen as BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd.'s official slap across the now-iconic iPhone's face, got off to a rocky start, with first-adopters facing technical bugs, software issues, operating system glitches and a host of other hurdles with the 3G device. Many of the problems were fixed with a December software update.

Further fueling the flames of the Storm's rumored failure, in Verizon's fourth-quarter earnings call Monday, the company glossed over the Storm, not revealing official sales figures or projections.

While 500,000 is a solid showing for one month, it pales in comparison to the Apple iPhone 3G's 2.4 million units sold in its first quarter.

What worked against Storm was RIM's frantic rush to get it into users' hands. It was originally planned to hit stores in October, but went back to the drawing board to right some software wrongs. The delays forced RIM to hustle to get the device in stores in time for the ever-important Black Friday shopping masses.

Despite hitting the crucial Black Friday deadline, it wasn't enough for the Storm to edge out the iPhone for touch-screen smart phone dominance, a market that has many device makers jockeying to be king of the mountain.

Shortly before the Storm hit the streets, T-Mobile and HTC joined the battle of the touch-screen titans, with the release of the first-ever open-source Google Android-based smart phone, the T-Mobile G1. Concrete sales figures for the G1 have also not been divulged.

The heated competition, however, didn't faze the Apple faithful, which helped put Apple and its iPhone higher up in the smart phone food chain. By some industry analyst accounts, the iPhone, which is exclusive to AT&T, has captured 25 percent or more of the overall North American smart phone market.

Together, the Storm and the iPhone 3G represent two of the coolest and most sought after smart phones of 2008 and their allure will likely carry on well into 2009. But there are sure to be more iPhone clones and potential iPhone killers trying to overthrow the king.

Another damning blow against the Storm and other iPhone competitors came last week, when Apple won a U.S. patent for touch-screen controls, arming Steve Jobs and Apple with a new weapon against any touch-screen copycats looking to dethrone the iPhone. The patent office awarded Jobs and Apple U.S. Patent 7,479,949 for a method of "detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch-screen display," specifically multitouch commands like the swiping, twisting, pinching and rotating actions used on iPhones and iPod Touch devices.

And Apple will likely use the patent to its advantage. In Apple's stellar first-quarter earnings call the day following the patent victory, acting Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We like competition, as long as they don't rip off our [intellectual property], and if they do, we're going to go after anybody that does. We will not stand for having our IP ripped off and we'll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal [to prevent that from happening]."

Cook made that comment after being asked specifically about Palm and the Palm Pre, a soon-to-be-released touch-screen Palm smart phone that has been christened as the latest iPhone killer. The Palm Pre was one of many marquis smart phones showcased at CES 2009 in Las Vegas earlier this month.

While Cook did not call out Palm specifically, the comments can be seen as a warning for any company, including BlackBerry, looking to rival Apple with a touch-screen device.

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