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RIM still a contender to Apple as it ships 7.8M Blackberries this quarter

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Research in Motion put pressure on Apple Thursday with word that about 7.8 million BlackBerries had shipped during its latest fiscal quarter, again setting a new record — and dismissing the likelihood of new and cheaper iPhones as immediate threats. We’ll see if that remains their position, as the iPhone 3GS is very likely to set new sales records as well.

The tally for its first quarter of fiscal 2010 is a sharp 44 percent jump from what the Canadian company sold just one year earlier and matches the all-time record for smartphone shipments set just before, in the winter quarter.

Since almost all BlackBerry devices are attached to subscriptions to push e-mail, RIM can also roughly say how many of its customers are new to the platform: just about half of these, at 3.8 million, were first-time subscribers. A small portion use prepaid services instead or else use their own non-push e-mail accounts.

The handset designer’s finances were decidedly more mixed. Its net income shot up more than 33 percent year-over-year to $643 million, but its revenue actually dropped very slightly compared to spring 2008, at $3.42 billion. Part of this stems from a lower gross margin — it built in 43.6 percent of headroom on prices versus 50.7 percent last year — but is also blamed on a stronger Canadian dollar.

Like Apple, RIM doesn’t break down its shipments by individual model and so wouldn’t say how much its only touchscreen phone, the BlackBerry Storm, was adding to existing sales. Most of its phone additions during the March-to-May period were from lower-cost or mid-range phones like the more frugal BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230, which shipped for Verizon, and AT&T’s edition of the BlackBerry Curve 8900.

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