RIM’s fate has been looking increasingly dark for the last year. Storm clouds gather each time they make a public financial statement and each new interview with their CEO, Thorsten Heins, includes the rather ominously hanging question: “What next for BlackBerry?” The vultures are already circling. Samsung were rumoured last week to be eying up an acquisition of some, or maybe even all, of RIM’s phone business. They publicly claimed that they had “not considered” either a takeover or buying BB10 operating system licenses, but we wouldn’t be surprised if someone out there was looking for rich pickings from the bones of BlackBerry.
Today, the internet is awash with rumours that this other vulture is IBM, who are eying up their enterprise division. One source was quoted as saying they had even gone as far as making an “informal approach” on the possibility of taking over RIM’s network of secure servers that handles the email and data for all BlackBerrys worldwide. Neither company has officially commented on the issue, but that doesn’t means there isn’t something up behind the scenes.
The enterprise side of the business is what made BlackBerry so good in the first place. It is also what sets them apart from other manufacturers. That’s why Mr Heins has been keen to state that this is where RIM is focusing most of its efforts. Its also why it is such an attractive proposition for other buyers. Imagine if Samsung acquired it – they could potentially handle BBM on Android and improve the email services for their phones. Combining the best features of BlackBerry with the speed, performance and usability of Android would be a killer combination. That would make a new Samsung essentially the only smartphone you could ever want. Other Android manufacturers wouldn’t stand a chance. Dangerous? Maybe. But think how awesome those phones would be.
RIM’s biggest chance of success lies in the BB10 OS. People buy BlackBerrys because of BBM and email. Certainly, no one gets one for its gaming capabilities. If it can make BBM a multiplatform attraction and live off the revenue that the licensing creates to improve their software then they can maintain a market presence in the smartphone segment. As it stands they don’t have the economies of scale to compete over handset prices with companies like Samsung, HTC or Apple.
With these economies of scale provided by a manufacturer like Samsung the services would make a lot of sense and be able to compete efficiently with Apple. It might also mean RIM are able to restore some of their market share to its former glory, seeing as it now languishes at a lowly 4.8%. This is down from 38% when the iPhone launched in 2007.
The future looks far from rosy for Thorsten Heins and his company. The fact that he recently admitted in an interview with The Telegraph that the company had thought long and hard about switching to Android before pursuing their own OS shows that they’re willing to think outside the box for turning round their fortunes. We shall have to see what 2013 brings. The shape of the smartphone market could well be defined by whether their new BB10 OS is any good or not.