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A Research In Motion BlackBerry Storm (LUCAS JACKSON/LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
A Research In Motion BlackBerry Storm (LUCAS JACKSON/LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)

TheStreet.com

RIM tests investors' pain tolerance Add to ...

Late last year tech giants, Research In Motion , Microsoft and Comcast looked like they'd be putting all the slipups behind them. It looked like 2010 would be a time of action.

The predictions panned out as follows: Wrong, wrong and right.

RIM shares hit a one-year low Friday after the BlackBerry maker added more confirmation to the thesis that Apple and Google Android phones are crushing the smartphone business.

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Microsoft is headed in that same direction for many of the same reasons.

But Comcast hasn't been nearly as disappointing; its stock is sitting 5 per cent higher for the year thus far.

Here's an update on where these top tech picks of 2010 might be headed.

Research in Motion

Our bet on RIM was based on the idea that it was far too nimble to fall far behind in its own game. But six months into the year, amid the rush of new phone arrivals from Motorola, HTC and Apple, RIM has done just that. The curtain is falling on RIM's email phone act. And the long wait for the BlackBerry 6 operating system and a touchscreen, Web- and app-friendly system has turned painful. The new Talladega phone that should have arrived by now may not materialize until fall, according to analysts.



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One additional factor that wasn't obvious when we picked RIM for 2010 was the easy sync new Android phones have with Microsoft Exchange, the dominant office email and calendar systems. Phones like the Verizon Incredible and Sprint's EVO effortlessly link up to the office network and as yet, are not subject to an service extra charge. It could very well pry BlackBerry servers out of the IT closet.



Thinking of investing in RIM?

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If there was a darkest moment before the dawn for RIM, this is it. The new BlackBerry could put RIM right back in the game, but it will test investors' pain tolerance waiting for that payoff.



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Microsoft

We thought we were so smart in December amid the PC buying revival. All Microsoft had to do was not mess up the computer software business and deliver on some promises in mobile. Well, Windows 7 is a smashing success, but Windows Phone 7 is still just a promise.

The Zune phone, otherwise known as Microsoft's answer to the Apple iPhone, is still months away at the very least. And as RIM shows us, living on the vapor of a future phone while Apple and Google are delivering new phones can choke optimism.

Microsoft's position isn't as dire as RIM's, but it will need to gain huge acceptance in mobile phone software to have any chance at catching up with Apple and Google Android. This is an especially difficult challenge since Hewlett-Packard(HPQ) has opted for Palm's mobile software and Dell has made its choice with Android.

And not helping in the least bit, last week, at the Verizon Droid X unveiling, Motorola' phone chief Sanjay Jha said there would be no Microsoft Windows 7 phones from Motorola this year.

That's fine if we'd picked this as a big stock for 2011, but it isn't particularly promising for Microsoft's mobile success in 2010.

Comcast

In Comcast's $30 billion deal for GE's NBC Universal, it looked like the cable giant had bought a ticket out of the bloody war for video subscribers. Federal regulatory review's slow grind got even slower last week when the Federal Communications Commission asked the company for more documents related to the deal. Comcast says it expects the review to take the rest of the year.

That pretty much neutralizes the impetus for our stock pick. The thinking behind our Comcast choice was that the cable company's ownership of media properties would help counter the rise of Internet and wireless video. Through NBC Universal, Comcast would have a hand in selling programming to distributors.

With video available on the Internet and wireless devices, consumers can't be expected to stick with the old system where cable TV listings dictate when shows can be seen. The challenge for Comcast and NBC Universal is to find a way to charge for programming or develop an advertising-supported format.

Comcast is planning to get on the money-making end of this media delivery game, and a blessing from the Feds will certainly pave that path.

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