Can BlackBerry Quash Windows Phone Growth?

The new BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) Z10 may come to the U.S. shores in March and put Windows Phone hoopla to rest. Though Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone operating system took the seat as the third-most popular smartphone OS in the U.S. during the BlackBerry’s long absence (no new releases for 18 months!), it may prove too soon to celebrate the move, as BlackBerry pushes to regain some of its lost standing.

BlackBerry has been struggling ever since Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone came out. As more and more smartphone options rolled out, things didn’t get any easier for BlackBerry, which failed to keep up. Some might say the company was lucky its platform stayed in the top 3 as long as it did, but alas, Windows Phone was able to overtake it while it stagnated ahead of the long-delayed launch of BlackBerry 10 and the pair of new smartphone devices — the Z10 and Q10 — running on the new platform.

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Microsoft may be a very distant third after Apple’s iOS and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, but being overtaken even in such a lowly position left BlackBerry hurting, and had Microsoft singing victory chants. However, given the circumstances under which Microsoft was able to overtake BlackBerry (again, no new releases in 18 months!), their swap may only be temporary.

BlackBerry was in a vulnerable place last quarter — as hype built for its BB10 platform and anticipated devices, many of the few remaining BlackBerry fans were holding out on upgrading their phones, which means BlackBerry sales were even more depressed than in previous quarters…

At the same time that anticipation was crushing BlackBerry sales, a slew of Windows Phone devices were hitting the market from Nokia (NYSE:NOK), HTC, and others. This gave Microsoft’s smartphone OS a major advantage in the U.S. market, which it still holds.

However, Microsoft’s advantage may not last much longer, as T-Mobile may be bringing the first BB10 device — the Z10 — to the U.S. as soon as next month. T-Mobile had been looking at a late March launch for Z10s on its network, but T-Mobile USA’s Head of Business Sales Frank Sickinger said the device beat the carrier’s stability expectations, which could mean it will see an even earlier launch.

Time may prove crucial for BlackBerry getting back its rank. As more time passes and more consumers buy into the Windows Phone ecosystem, Microsoft’s footing will become more steady — like Android and iOS, it too will likely breed its own devotees. But, if BlackBerry can come back quick enough, it may prevent Windows Phones from gaining more traction, and could take back its former rank, perhaps even improving upon its market share versus Apple and Google.

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