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Research in Motion stock hits 8-year low. BlackBerry users leaving.

Research in Motion stock falls after company delays arrival of new phones next year. But the real problem for Research in Motion stock: Loyal BlackBerry users are jumping to other smartphones.

By Alistair Barr and Sinead CarewReuters / December 17, 2011

In this October file photo, Mike Lazaridis, co-CEO of Research in Motion gives a keynote address to the BlackBerry DevCon Americas conference in San Francisco. Research In Motion stock fell to its lowest level in nearly eight years on Dec. 15, 2011.

Eric Risberg/AP/File

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SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK

To understand what ails BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd in the U.S. market, just ask eBay Inc Chief Executive John Donahoe.

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The world's biggest online auction site had about a hundred engineers developing new iterations of eBay's shopping app for Apple Inc's iPhone a few months ago, and another hundred engineers working on Google Inc's Android mobile platform.

EBay even had 50 people developing apps for Microsoft's Windows phones, but the e-commerce giant only had "one or two" working on RIM's BlackBerry, according to Donahoe.

"I still use the BlackBerry, but it's not the most developer-friendly platform," he told a group of chief technology officers at an event at Stanford University in June, when the subject of RIM came up.

By early November, it seemed Donahoe wasn't even using his BlackBerry much any more. When he met with reporters to talk about plans for the holiday shopping season, the CEO whipped out his iPhone to show how eBay's apps ran on the device. When Reuters asked Donahue about his BlackBerry, he said he still had it but didn't bother to bring it into the room.

Such stories are commonly found among RIM's once-loyal corporate and consumer customers, who are deserting the Canadian company after it has struggled to keep up with competitors' innovations.

RIM on Thursday posted a sharply lower quarterly profit, offered a dismal forecast for BlackBerry shipments this holiday season, and delayed the arrival of new phones using a make-or-break operating system in development, QNX.

"It's frustrating because I haven't heard anything good from them in a long time," said long-time BlackBerry user Kevin Nichols, the head of KLN Consulting Group, who was looking at Android and Windows phones at a Sprint Nextel Corp store in downtown San Francisco on Friday.

"They need to come out with new products soon, otherwise it looks like RIM may become the next Palm," he said, in reference to the collapse of the smartphone pioneer Palm Inc. Nichols ignored the latest BlackBerry Torch in a display case nearby, saying the device wasn't "new enough" for him to upgrade.

Even on Wall Street, where users once joked about their addiction to their "crackberries," loyalty is waning.

"The QNX delay is a concern," said Rob Romero, head of hedge fund firm Connective Capital. "Consumers like new products and vendors want something new to sell in their stores."

The chief technology officer of a Connecticut-based hedge fund said that when a top hedge fund manager wants to use an iPhone instead of a BlackBerry they can now switch, even though he prefers RIM security. "When they say I want an iPhone or an iPad configured, they get it," said the CTO, who declined to be identified.

The price of Research in Motion stock fell 11 percent on Nasdaq on Friday and hit their lowest level in nearly eight years.

SECURITY FEATURES

Research firm Strategy Analytics forecast RIM's share of the U.S. smartphone market to fall to 12 percent this year, a sharp drop from 2007, when RIM had a 44 percent share. By comparison, Apple, which just started selling smartphones in 2007, is expected to grab a 24 percent U.S. market share this year.