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Apple iPhone may capture 26 percent of smartphone buyers - report

While it has yet to ship its first cellphone, Apple is already tied with BlackBerry producer RIM in desirability, a just-published study reveals.

Research group ChangeWave announced the findings on Thursday, confirming early suspicions from analysts that the iPhone will dull the impact of the BlackBerry Pearl and other smartphones in the eyes of potential subscribers.

Conducted in April, the study shows that just over a quarter of all potential buyers in the consumer field are set on buying the Apple phone when it launches this month. The figure is an exact match for future Canadian rival Research in Motion, whose BlackBerries have held their appeal in recent months.

Potentially more impressive is Apple's seeming foothold on the business market, ChangeWave says. Though the research firm conducted its study before reports surfaced of corporate account bans that prevent the iPhone from selling directly to businesses in the early phase of its release, findings from a corporate analysis in May point to 9 percent of study members preferring the new device to established rivals.

Apple is also causing a shockwave effect in the industry as a result, according to the report. Motorola, Nokia, and Palm have all seen rapid declines in their attractiveness to buyers since the end of 2006 —falling to 5, 3, and 10 percent respectively in the number of planned consumer phone purchases at the time of the April poll. And while RIM has cemented its position in the office world, climbing to 67 percent of all smartphones sold, Apple's presence may sap the strength of Motorola (16 percent) and Palm (19 percent), either of which "may well be in danger" of eroding marketshare, ChangeWave claims.

Irrespective of the business or home spheres, however, the study portrays the mid-2007 smartphone industry as a two-man race, with Apple set to outrun current followers and giving RIM genuine competition.

"Going forward, the Apple iPhone launch poses an enormous challenge to Palm, Motorola and Nokia —all of whom can be expected to record lows," the report says. "So whether talking about the consumer or the corporate [smartphone] space, it's quite clear that the iPhone spells trouble for many of the industry's players."