Research In Motion is reportedly weighing options with financial advisors, in an effort to stem the company’s continued fall from grace. Sales of iPhones and Android handsets have grown since their introduction in 2007 and 2008 respectively while BlackBerry sales have stagnated by comparison. According to Bloomberg, RIM doesn’t plan to sell itself, but is considering a strategic investment and would lean towards licensing its BlackBerry software.
For a company built on proprietary software, that’s the sign of a last-ditch effort; a raising of the white flag, if you will. By giving up something that nobody has — the BlackBerry platform — RIM would have little left to stand apart from any competitors. In the unlikely event that RIM could find a strategic partner, it would only serve to keep the company treading water at best. Why? Because a partner would only bring new hardware and hardware isn’t what got RIM into its current predicament.
Instead, RIM was slow to mature its BlackBerry software, even as iOS and Android arrived with solid touchscreen experiences. RIM tried to replicate the touch experience but failed. App makers saw this too and where did they turn for their new mobile apps? Not to RIM, but to iOS and Android. Research In Motion was over-confident in what they offered customers and simply didn’t change with the times.
So who might be interested in licensing the BlackBerry platform? That’s the other problem because the short answer is: nobody. Apple has its own successful platform, of course. Nokia has made its bed with Microsoft’s Windows Phone software. Samsung, LG, HTC, Sony, and most others have embraced Android. All three of these platforms have a broader media and app ecosystem than BlackBerry does, so there’s little to be gained by anyone in the mix.
The only outside long shots (read: very, very long) I can see? ZTE or Huawei might be candidates who’d choose it as a side bet to their Android efforts; it would allow these Chinese manufacturers another foot in the door for regions where BlackBerry has a strong following. I really don’t see this happening, however. Instead, I suspect my 2012 prediction, written last year, is the likely outcome for RIM: It becomes a services company this year if it’s still around.