RIM keeps door open to sale of handset unit as it looks beyond phones

BlackBerry maker RIM could license its software to other companies or sell off its hardware production, according to chief executive Thorsten Heins, who has also hinted that BlackBerry software could be found in a wider array of products.

In the run-up to the launch of its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, Research In Motion (RIM) is considering a number of strategic options that could see it license its software to other companies, or even sell off its hardware production.

The company's chief executive Thorsten Heins made the remarks in an interview with German newspaper Die Welt on Sunday.

"There are several possibilities, which include the sale of hardware production as well as licensing our software. But there's no reason for us to make any rushed decisions," Heins said.

Heins said RIM would first see how well its BlackBerry 10 launch and devices are received. He described the launch as a crucial moment and a "milestone" for RIM.

Despite keeping options open, the company is not ready to give up on the smartphone market without a fight.

Heins noted that a lot has changed inside RIM since he stepped into the top job a year ago.

"The company has become leaner, which means we've reduced costs. Decisions are being made more quickly, and responsibilities have been redistributed. We're still in the middle of this process. We've even increased liquidity, even though people were predicting we'd be burning money. We're free of debt and have $2.9 billion in cash at our disposal," Heins said.

He also talked up BlackBerry 10's App World ahead of the launch, confirming that there will be around 70,000 apps in the store by the time the new platform is introduced at the end of January.

Despite the twice-delayed BlackBerry 10 platform arriving later than expected, Heins said the company now has a platform that will last a decade and can be used in more diverse devices in addition to smartphones, such as in cars.

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