Editor's note: In the previous version of this story, we incorrectly reported that Research In Motion had lost almost five percentage points in market share. Research In Motion did not lose market share. The Fool regrets the error.

If great firms win customers in every market, then Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is one of the best companies I've ever seen.

New research from smartphone tracker Canalys put the iPhone ahead of Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) so-called CrackBerry for the first time during the third quarter. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) still has the top spot, but it lost share, as did fourth-place Motorola (NYSE:MOT). The numbers:

Company

Q3 2008 Shipments

% Market Share

Q3 2007 Shipments

% Market Share

Nokia

15.485 million

38.9%

16.025 million

51.4%

Apple

6.899 million

17.3%

1.107 million

3.6%

Research In Motion

6.051 million

15.2%

3.298 million

10.6%

Motorola

2.313 million

5.8%

2.058 million

6.6%

HTC

2.308 million

5.8%

.850 million

2.7%

All Others

6.791 million

17%

7.816 million

25.1%

Source: Canalys.

What strikes me is how everyone lost share save for Apple, Research In Motion, and Taiwan's HTC, which actually beat the iEmpire to market with a touchscreen phone.

Apple is the big winner here, by comparison to RIM. How else can you describe it, when RIM has shipped 83% more units year-over-year but has fallen behind Apple in market share? Shoppers simply like the iPhone more -- or so says a recent customer-satisfaction survey taken by J.D. Power.

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Mobile fared a little better. Its share of the smartphone operating system market increased from 12.2% to 13.6%. Trouble is, that ranked fourth -- behind Nokia's Symbian, the Mac OS, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS.

And (ahem) those numbers might be soft. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) first Android phone -- built and sold through Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE:DT) T-Mobile -- shipped in late September. The G1 hasn't exactly created raving fans, but rumors of Mr. Moto wanting an Android of his own appear plausible. If so, other handset makers will follow. Microsoft and RIM could be fighting to stand still even as the iPhone marches on.

Which means the "iEmpire" is no longer just a cutesy nickname. It's real, growing, and -- if the numbers are to be believed -- the cure for legions of one-time CrackBerry addicts.

Brrrrrrrring! It's related Foolishness calling:

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation. Nokia and Microsoft are Inside Value picks. Try any of these market-beating services free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and Google and a stock position in Nokia at the time of publication. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is wondering when Apple will come out with the iRack.

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