RIM Explores “Strategic Options” for the Future

by Jeff Wiener on April 18, 2012

After years of financial struggles, a distinct downturn in its overall popularity, and an entrenched leadership group that had about as many innovative ideas as a rock, it looks like the end is nigh for Blackberry maker Research in Motion, as the company announced it is set to hire a financial advisor to help explore “strategic options” for the company, often marketing speak for putting itself up for sale, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.

Following five consecutive quarterly losses, an ineffectual leadership change, and stalls to the company’s new operating system update, it really should come as no surprise that the once great Blackberry maker is seeking out new options for the future, and while Bloomberg reports that the company is pursing other alternatives such as licensing before throwing in the towel, one has to think that if the right deal came along RIM would jump as the chance.

But of course that raises the question in my mind; will the right deal ever come along? Who would want Research in Motion or its broken Blackberry brand, how much would they pay for it and what would they do with it when they got it?

Before we get to a discussion about the potential selloff of one of Canada’s most successful—and most tragic—mobile tech stories, there are a few other ‘strategic options’ that RIM may have at its disposal.

First, the company is clearly hoping to license its Blackberry operating system, perhaps to a company like Samsung who is known in the Android circles as the only company to date to make a phone that offers even a modicum of competition for Apple’s iPhone line. Of course such a deal would depend on Samsung actually being interested in paying licensing fees, something it doesn’t have to do with Google’s free Android platform (although it does pay others for the privilege).

Second, the company could consider, much like AOL of late, a patent selloff. While it’s still a sure sign that a company is circling the drain, it would give RIM enough of a cash infusion to make one last solid (hopefully innovative) attempt at reviving its brand. Sure it’s a long shot, but we’re clearly at the stage where only a long shot will save Research in Motion now.

If RIM would actively seek to leverage its remaining strengths, that being its messaging service and patent portfolio, reports indicate that Microsoft (who just purchased patents from AOL) would be interested, no doubt scooping up the valuable intellectual property as both a means of bolstering its own Windows Phone OS and preventing the technology from ending up in a competitor’s hands.

That of course brings us to Research in Motion’s third option, selling the company. While CEO Thorsten Heins said a sale wasn’t the primary avenue his company was pursuing at this time, he did note that offers would be considered. So why would anyone want to purchase RIM? From a buyers perspective there is still some value left in ol’ RIM, as the company’s extensive patent portfolio, its global enterprise base (which is admittedly fading fast), and, despite its flagging sales, its strong reputation for its email system and its unrivalled security could be attractive for the right company.

The truth of the matter, however, is that RIM is a mess, and despite those strengths it’s unlikely that anyone yet at least is going to want to scoop up this debacle…at least not until the company is available at a bargain basement price.

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