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The shine may have finally come off the Apple iPhone. According to a new report by market research firm NPD, Research In Motion’s Blackberry Curve outsold the iPhone in the consumer market for the first time in the first quarter of 2009.

NPD credits the Curve win with a “buy-one-get-one” promotion by Verizon Wireless, the premier partner for distribution and carrier service. RIM holds three of the top five best selling smartphones, with its Storm placing third and Pearl placing fourth. The T-Mobile G1 is the fifth best seller.

"The more familiar, and less expensive, Curve benefited from these giveaways and was able to leapfrog the iPhone, due to its broader availability on the four major U.S. national carriers," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis at NPD, in a news release.
The news of outpacing the iPhone is good news for RIM and its partners, since many are expecting Apple to release an enterprise version of the iPhone with its next generation launch expected in July.

The Curve win and the gaining momentum of RIM’s products is good news for solution and solution providers, who are being courted by cellphone manufacturers to develop new applications to support their devices and end users seeking implementation and support services for smartphones.

In the Channel Insider 2009 Market Pulse Report, solution providers reported that smartphone sales and support were the highest product and service demanded by their customers. End users often don’t have the skills to implement and support multi-user smartphone services, particularly for application management and digital communications such as email.

Today, Cisco Systems announced it was adding Blackberry Mobile Voice System Server (Blackberry MVS) to its Unified Communication Manager, which will give greater management capabilities to enterprise users and extend connectivity to smartphone users.

"BlackBerry Mobile Voice System and Cisco Unified Communications Manager together with BlackBerry Enterprise Server are a powerful combination for unified communications," said Laurent Philonenko, vice president and general manager, Cisco Unified Communications business unit, in a statement. "The integrated solution now enables IT professionals to manage mobile costs by extending corporate voice policy to their mobile devices, while offering BlackBerry users a rich set of familiar enterprise features through the same elegant, user interface of the BlackBerry Smartphone."

The RIM first quarter win may only be temporary, since Apple and Palm are both expected to release new, next generation products this summer. Some analysts and early reviewers have called the Palm Pre an “iPhone killer.” Some observers have said the iPhone will continue to hold consumer attention, but is endanger of being overtaken by rivals’ innovations.

Smartphones continue to gain momentum in the enterprise and consumer markets. According to NPD, 25 percent of the cellular devices in circulation are smartphones, up from 17 percent just a year ago. The increasing demand for smartphones will likely translate into increase sales and support opportunities for solution providers.