RIM 'considers' sale options: Should Apple buy BlackBerry?

Summary:If Apple made a bid for Research in Motion, it could take a leaf out of Google's book by spinning out the business to avoid antitrust conflicts, and spark a real smartphone war.

With poor sales and a desperate hedge on the next-generation QNX-based BlackBerry 10 devices, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion's is in utter turmoil. The company is struggling to stand up, let alone walk, and its shareholders are pleading for it to change the will.

In the first earnings call since the tag team of Balsillie and Lazaridis resigned as the company's bosses, chief executives Thorsten Heins hinted that the company he is trying to save could eventually be sold.

In the conference call, he said if "there was an element that we detected during the strategic review that would lead us into [the] direction" of a sales bid, "we would consider it."

In what it likes to call "matchmaking" as one of its favourite pastimes, the Wall Street Journal discusses which companies could make a serious bid for the BlackBerry maker.

While Microsoft and Nokia, two connected players in the smartphone world, had reportedly explored a possibility of a buy-out, only to be shot down by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, and e-reader and retail giant Amazon flirting with the possibility of buying the Canadian firm, there is one likely contender.

"Apple --- It has the cash, everyone knows that, but given how anti-trust regulators have been patrolling this year, it is unlikely this deal would go very far."

Apple could, despite its silence on the matter and a spokesperson's refusal to comment, buy Research in Motion.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan had two words for me when I suggested the idea: "Oh, God." But it's not completely outside the realms of possibility.

As Google and Microsoft continue their battle to reign as the supreme leader of the email space --- with Google focusing its efforts on consumer-focused Gmail and enterprise-ready Google Apps, and Microsoft pushing away from Exchange servers to cloud-based Office 365 --- there are few alternatives to turn to in the email convergence race.

And what a way for Apple to twist the knife if it were to bolster its position in the enterprise email market, considering already the grip the iPhone and iPad has on business productivity, if it could take on its arch rivals of Google and Microsoft?

Apple has something RIM had: enterprise customers. At least, kind of.

At the height of the BlackBerry revolution --- before the consumer soiree began --- almost every business man and woman working in government and the private sector had a BlackBerry smartphone hooked up to a secure email account. RIM still has the infrastructure, but its customers turned scrapped their BlackBerry's in favour of Apple's iPhone, or Google's Android. A BlackBerry on-premise or hosted server wasn't necessary, and the company lost crucial enterprise contracts.

iPhone and Android enterprise customers also still have their email infrastructure, and use their devices as a mere looking glass into their email accounts. This, equalled by consumers hooking up their BlackBerry's to Gmail, Hotmail and other free services, lost RIM its enterprise revenue.

If Apple took the RIM's enterprise server structure and embedded it as part of its own iMessage infrastructure --- and wangled its way past the antitrust regulators both sides of the Atlantic --- it could pander to the needs of the enterprise once again: secure, reliable email, while using the widely-accepted smartphone of choice.

Why would Apple need a "thermonuclear war" against Android if it had the competitive enterprise edge? Android would be stuck in the dark ages, while the Apple--RIM joint venture pushed ahead and once again offered a solution that would keep business consumers happy with the enterprise device of choice --- the iPhone --- while offering government-grade email security from RIM's acquired backend infrastructure.

Or, Apple could just buy it, and take a leaf out of the Google--Motorola Mobility strategy book, and keep it at a firm distance, while raking in its patents, and keep the company on its feet. Jobs would be saved, the company could stay afloat, and it could be spun into an entirely separate entity from Apple. It could even still ‘compete' with Apple, its then parent company.

Everybody wins, except Google. And that's exactly the position Apple wants to be in.

Image credit: Randy Stewart/Flickr.

Related:

Topics: BlackBerry, Apple, Collaboration, Google, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Security

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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