Research in Motion has tried to staunch the flow of bad news by announcing that its app store, BlackBerry App World has just passed three billion downloads.

BlackBerry App World launched in April 2009. RIM's app store currently has about 90,000 apps for BlackBerry smartphones and the PlayBook, and it took users just over three years to hit that mark.

Apple, by comparison, hit the three billion download mark just under 18 months after launching the App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch, offering more than 100,000 apps at the time. Google said the Android Market hit three billion downloads about 27 months after launch.
Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace has yet to hit the three billion download mark, but the Marketplace in June topped 100,000 apps.

Although RIM was beaten to the three billion download mark by Apple and Google, the activity shows RIM still has an active BlackBerry user base to rely on. The company said it took BlackBerry users just over two years to download the first billion apps. A little more than six months after that App World hit two billion app downloads, and the most recent billion app downloads occurred in just less than six months.

RIM may have found a bright spot for the company to celebrate, but the BlackBerry brand faces tough challenges in the coming months. RIM originally planned to launch BlackBerry 10, the touch-centric, next-generation version of its smartphone platform, in late 2012. But the company in late June said it would have to delay the BlackBerry 10 launch until the first three months of 2013.

In the meantime, users may be lured away from the BlackBerry by a string of new smartphones and tablets headed their way later this year. Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone model in the autumn, Google recently announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with potential new devices coming out in the coming months, and Microsoft will be rolling out Windows Phone 8 in the autumn. You can expect Microsoft to push hard for new users with an overhauled platform that includes new features for enterprise users and deep integration with Windows 8, the next version of Microsoft's desktop OS.