BlackBerry looking at 'speedy sale': Will Microsoft jump in to save it?

Now that Nokia's phone business is in the hands of the Redmond-based software giant, one has to wonder if BlackBerry's enterprise appeal may be something Microsoft would be interested in.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: CNET

BlackBerry is reportedly looking for a "fast auction process" that could see the company split-up or sold on to a third-party buyer as soon as November — at least, the company hopes. 

First reported by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter, talks between rival bidders and the firm have taken place to gauge interest in buying the Ontario, Canada-based firm.

According to one of the Journal's sources, the committee is gunning for a speedy resolution to its sales process.

It comes just a few weeks after BlackBerry announced it had formed a small committee of company board members to "explore strategic alternatives" that could eventually see the company broken up and sold off to the highest bidder. 

The news on Wednesday broke in the same week as the long-anticipated (albeit highly doubted) Microsoft deal to buy Nokia's phone-making business for $7.2 billion. Nokia will retain its valuable patent and intellectual property assets, while the entire staff base of its phone-making business will become Microsoft employees in the transaction.

The obvious and logical question is: Will Microsoft jump in to buy the firm?

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant was "keeping an eye" on BlackBerry, citing sources, as its business and government customer base could still attract the enterprise-focused firm. 

Wall Street seemed optimistic on the news. BlackBerry's share price ($BBRY) rose on Monday and Tuesday by more than 3 percent following news of the acquisition, and again by more than 5 percent after the market closed on Wednesday. 

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley pondered almost exactly a year ago whether or not Microsoft should snap up either BlackBerry (then named Research in Motion) or Nokia. "Nah..." she said. And at the time she was dead-on. Microsoft had little interest in buying Nokia.

But a lot happened in the space of a year: Nokia's financial troubles worsened and its sales dwindled, while at the same time its Windows Phone platform surpassed BlackBerry's share.

Foley noted three key points for what Microsoft would benefit out of a Nokia deal. Microsoft would gain lots more employees (we can check that off the list, with 32,000 Nokia staffers now part of the company); a dying operating system (referring to Symbian, but that's now dead); and manufacturing capabilities enabling it to compete with its existing partners (which the company now has and is gunning for now that it took the third-place market share crown from BlackBerry).

If the Microsoft-Nokia deal is anything to go buy, it stepped in at the right time though not too late. If Microsoft wants to snap up BlackBerry for its still highly lucrative enterprise business, it may be in for a wait — at least until BlackBerry's financial situation dwindles to a point where it's a viable and returnable purchase.

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