Will Microsoft or BlackBerry Win the Third Place Ribbon?

As Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) survey the mobile market, there is little hope for anything other than a third-place finish. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are so far ahead of the pack in mobile device sales with the iPhone and Android that there is nothing left but an also-ran. In the global mobile market, though, third place is worth a lot to investors.

The reason these two companies remain relevant in the mobile game is the recent release of BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8. For BlackBerry, skepticism is widespread about the company’s efforts to once again become a force in the market it previously dominated. In fact, CEO Thorsten Heins seemed to hedge his bets with the recent Z10 release, telling ABC News the new Berry was a preview of one “that executes all your computing needs.”

Then where is that device? According to Heins’s hints, a Blackberry phone-tablet device is in development. In the meantime, he’s offering the Z10 with a virtual keyboard, plus another model with an old-fashioned hardware keyboard on the way.

The Windows Phone 8 packs the potent combination of Microsoft’s unwavering backing and a large segment of the population comfortable with its computing platform. Can Microsoft make those advantages their ticket to the bronze medal? It is on the right track, according to VP of Corporate Communications Frank Shaw. It is beating Blackberry in 26 markets and chipping away at Apple in another seven (no mention of Android, for obvious reasons).

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While this modest trend upward for Windows Phone is not much, considering the breadth of its marketing push, Microsoft has the both the pull (in attracting app developers) and relationships with phone makers like Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and providers like AT&T (NYSE:T) to relegate BlackBerry to fourth place.

After such a strong showing in laptop sales, Microsoft’s performance in the mobile market has frustrated shareholders. Changes seem to be in the works, however, as the new Pandora app for Windows Phone and the launch of Windows Blue for Haslet ultrabooks is making them inch forward in the mobile game. Though biting into Google’s Android market share is still a long way off, beating BlackBerry for third seems an achievable goal.

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