Pop quiz, hotshot:

You're the top dog in smart phones with "push" email technology so killer people have likened it to crack. But last year a new kid showed up with a glitzy multi-touch interface and media to die for, and sucked all the buzz out of your room. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?

If you answered, out innovate them, come up with next year's "it" device, you're correct. You're also clearly (and unfortunately) not the brain-trust at RIM.

We've already talked about Apple licensing Microsoft's ActiveSync, looking to eat into RIM's Blackberry business dominance. We've even made fun of the new old-look Blackberry 9000 (yep, that's the new BB pictures above. What, you thought it was the Meizu?). But this cuts deeper into the industry.

For years Palm pushed out tepid evolutionary designs. RIM, while having copied a little Palm look-and-feel at times, has made tentative flirtations, for good or for ill, with innovation in devices like the Pearl. For the most part, however, everyone has been content to regurgitate and duplicate. Everyone but the iPhone.

When Steve Jobs pulled the iPhone from his pocket at Macworld 2007 it was unlike anything we'd seen in smart phones before, but also instantly Apple. It was a revolution.

Palm needs to do this so badly the company hinges on it.

RIM does as well. Sure, they're in great shape. They move tons of units to an enormous, addicted user base. They own the market. But they no longer lead it.

Copying Apple's design is superficial but it's a sign that RIM is following. They are going where Apple has been. They are surrendering mindshare and, in doing so, surrendering leadership of the market.

Sure, Apple competes with Apple. They cancelled the mega-popular iPod Mini only to release the super-mega-popular Nano. And they'll push themselves on smart phones all alone if they have to. But every industry needs competition.

WinMob 7 is still vaporware and is also targeting where the iPhone was. That's Microsoft's MO. Palm's Nova needed to be out 2 years ago, if not earlier. They've long ago lost the drive that made them the original innovator. That leaves RIM (and perhaps Nokia).

Hotshots, you need to do better.