BlackBerry is considering putting itself up for sale.
The Canadian company said this morning that it's forming a special committee to consider "strategic alternatives" to enhance the company's value — including a joint venture, a partnership, or an outright sale of the company. The last option has long been resisted by CEO Thorsten Heins, who said repeatedly last year that he'd rather turn the company around with new products that put it up for sale.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. Over the last five years, BlackBerry, once called Research in Motion, has lost 93 percent of its stock value, while watching competitors Google and Apple win a larger and larger share of the smartphone market that BlackBerry once pioneered. At the end of 2012, BlackBerry posted a $646 million loss for the year — compared to $3.5 billion in earnings for 2010. And last quarter, sales of the company's new Z10 missed analysts' estimates by almost a million units.
So who could benefit from owning this struggling brand? A few suggestions:
Earlier this summer, Chinese company Huawei (pronounced Hwa-way), the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, hinted that it might be interested in buying BlackBerry. Strategically, such a purchase could open new doors for the 25-year-old company.
"For Huawei, that would mark a giant step up," Peter J. Clark said at Quartz earlier this summer. "With BlackBerry, the company could go from manufacturing other companies' non-Apple handsets to becoming an identifiable player in the world's consumer telephony main stage."
BlackBerrys were once touted by fans as devices that boasted superior email and messaging features. But the hardware was never known for being particularly sleek. And that got Connecting the Australian Channel's Matthew JC Powell thinking...
[Apple] makes brilliant hardware that everyone loves because it's brilliant hardware. When Apple went into the smartphone business in 2007, everyone forgave the fact that its mobile email and messaging were sadly deficient compared to what was available from competitors (like Research In Motion, as BlackBerry was called back then) because the hardware was so brilliant.
It’s 2013 now, and the seventh iteration of Apple's smartphone operating system is about to hit us. And guess what? The mobile mail still kind of sucks. Not as bad as it did six years ago, but you'd be hard-pressed to convince me there's been six years of advancement.
BlackBerry, on the other hand, has a whole lot of great email and messaging assets that Apple could snap up for a relatively low price, he argues. For Apple, BlackBerry is "the very definition of 'low-hanging fruit,'" says Powell.
Just a couple months ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer approached BlackBerry about a partnership, similar to the one it has with Nokia, in which Nokia uses Windows on its phones. Reuters said at the time, "In such a scenario, RIM could also look for Microsoft to buy a stake in the company and fund marketing and other expenses." With Microsoft as an owner, BlackBerry would stay afloat thanks to a wealthy parent, and Microsoft would expand the customer base for its mobile operating systeym.