Carriers seeking an alternative to Apple, Google may turn back to BlackBerry

Research In Motion will benefit in the near term from the ongoing launch of its new BlackBerry 7 smartphones, which are being described as the vendor’s strongest devices in some time. Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu upgraded his rating on RIM stock to Buy from Neutral, increasing his price target to $35 from $28. Wu sees near-term opportunity in RIM, and he thinks new BlackBerry handsets like the Bold 9900 will be well received. “The key differences this time include a refined user interface and improved hardware including faster processors, better graphics and displays as well as better build quality with its greater use of premium materials,” Wu wrote on Friday. “The company recently launched the new Bold 9900 and Torch 9810 and we see the upcoming launch of the full touchscreen Torch and new lower-end Curve in upcoming 1-2 quarters as future catalysts. RIMM has undoubtedly lost some customers but for loyalists still using 2-3 year old models, these refined updates are a worthy upgrade.” Read on for more.

Wu goes on to add that RIM could capitalize while Nokia transitions from Symbian to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform, though he did add that there is still concern surrounding s RIM’s long-term fundamentals and the risk of falling handset margins and increased competition. Perhaps most interestingly, however, the analyst says carriers are relaying a desire to broaden their portfolios to include a viable alternative to Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS platform, which now dominate the smartphone market. “In our conservation with carriers, they are increasingly concerned with the growing dominance of GOOG and AAPL and want a viable No. 3 alternative,” Wu wrote. “We believe RIMM benefits being the incumbent and with now a stronger product set.”

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