Research in Motion's (RIMM) fiscal third-quarter profit rose 45% as it shipped more BlackBerry smartphones than competitor Apple (AAPL) shipped iPhones in its latest quarter. The Canadian company beat earnings expectations and also forecast higher profit and sales for the fiscal fourth quarter than analysts expect, sending shares up in extended trading Thursday.

Net income for the quarter, which ended Nov. 27, was $911.1 million, or $1.74 a share, up from $628.4 million, or $1.10 a share, for the year-ago quarter, Research in Motion said. Revenue jumped 19% to $5.49 billion. Analysts expected earnings of $1.64 per share on $5.4 billion in revenue, according to a Thomson Reuters poll.

The company benefitted from a jump in demand for its BlackBerry smartphones. Research in Motion shipped 14.2 million BlackBerry devices, up 40% from a year earlier. "We feel very good about the future and have never been busier," co-CEO Jim Balsillie said on a conference call with analysts Thursday. "The core end of the business is just moving along so well and so fast."

BlackBerry vs. iPhone

That shipment number is 100,000 higher than the 14.1 million iPhones that Apple shipped for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Sept. 25. Of course, the companies' different fiscal calendars means that Research in Motion's quarter included a month more of the holiday shopping season than Apple's, so that the sales figures may not really be comparable.

Research in Motion and Apple have been battling for market share in a smartphone market that research firm Strategy Analytics predicts will jump almost eightfold to 355 million unit sales between 2009 and 2015. In October, Balsillie bashed Apple CEO Steve Jobs for calling the iPhone's lead over RIM's BlackBerry smartphone "insurmountable."

The rivalry will likely intensify when Research in Motion starts selling its PlayBook, a tablet computer that will compete with the Apple iPad. Earlier this year, In-Stat projected that companies would more than double the number of tablet computer sales over the next four years. Apple sold 4.19 million iPads during its fourth quarter.

Research in Motion set its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings guidance at about $1.77 per share on approximately $5.6 billion in sales. Analysts are forecasting $1.61 in earnings on $5.47 billion in revenue.

In after-hours trading, Research in Motion shares grew 2% to $60.40 by about 7:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday.


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