Research in Motion has lost its home field advantage in Canada to Apple for the first time ever, another sign that RIM is almost hopelessly broken when it comes to smartphone innovation.

The long-time co-CEOs and co-founders of RIM, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, resigned from the company in January after 20 years and were replaced by COO Thorsten Heins. While trying to shake up things at RIM is a good move, Heins does not appear to be committed to a full-scale re-boot that the brand desperately needs. Thus far, Heins has said he would stick with RIM’s current strategy for the foreseeable future. But maybe losing its stronghold in Canada could be the splash of cold water Heins needs to see how poorly RIM is really doing.

Bloomberg reports that RIM, which is based in Ontario, shipped 2.08 million BlackBerrys last year in Canada, while Apple shipped 2.85 million units of its popular iPhone. In 2008, RIM was outselling Apple nearly five to one.

“For RIM, in its home market, to lose that No. 1 position to iPhone is strategically important,” Paul Taylor, asset manager at BMO Harris Private Banking in Toronto, told Bloomberg. “It does identify, even with a home-country bias, how consumers are responding to the greater functionality of the iPhone.”

VentureBeat Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall made the case at the time of Balsillie and Lazaridis’ resignations that the RIM mostly lost its way because Apple and Google offer superior software platforms. RIM showed off its first BlackBerry in 1999 and became known for its simple and useful wireless e-mail service. And with that emphasis, it has owned the corporate smartphone world for years. But now that business professionals want more powerful devices like the iPhone, iPad, and various Android phones, RIM can’t even hold the enterprise.

At least in Canada, RIM still has loyal supporters. Many of Canada’s banks and government agencies still issue BlackBerrys, including the Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Bank of Montreal. But that tide could shift: Toronto-Dominion Bank still issues BlackBerrys to staffers, but now has a policy to let employees use iPhone and Android devices for corporate purposes.

Heins has said the company will begin to take a greater global focus and told the New York Times in January, “In the rest of the world, BlackBerry is growing very fast.” But if the shifting winds in Canada are any indication, RIM may not want to bet it all on the “rest of the world” because it can’t even win the smartphone war at home.

Broken BlackBerry photo: miggslives/Flickr

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