RIM Blackberry OS, Anyone? Tech Vendors Won't Bite - InformationWeek

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12:28 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman

RIM Blackberry OS, Anyone? Tech Vendors Won't Bite

Research In Motion needs to explore strategic options, one of which could be licensing out BlackBerry OS 10. This won't save the company.

The Future Of RIM: Exclusive Research
The Future Of RIM: Exclusive Research
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Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins, in the job only three months, seems to be doing everything he can to turn the ailing smartphone maker around. He's promised significant changes, new leadership, and a plan to make it all come together. That means RIM is considering multiple options. One of them, according to sources cited by Bloomberg, is licensing out its BlackBerry operating system.

Though it could be a potential source of revenue for RIM, this strategy will ultimately fail RIM. Here's why.

-- RIM's software chops are questionable. One of the big reasons that RIM's BlackBerry smartphones have fallen out of favor with enterprises and consumers alike is because the platform and software simply can't compete with Android and iOS. RIM has made strides with BlackBerry 7 when you look back at BB5 and BB6, but barely.

The real proof, however, is visible in PlayBook OS. PlayBook OS 2.0 in particular is essentially a preview of how BlackBerry 10 (BB10) will look and work. The PlayBook has been one of the most dismal failures in the tablet market over the course of the last year. It didn't fail because of the hardware. It failed because the software stinks.

What company would want to license stinky software?

-- Timing is bad for RIM. BlackBerry 10 is due to arrive by the end of the year. That's a long time from now. That means RIM will debut BB10 on smartphones before the end of the year, but licensees probably wouldn't be able to bring BB10-based handsets to market until early 2013.

Before RIM gets around to licensing out BB10 to anyone, Apple will have probably brought iOS 6 and the net-gen iPhone to market, and Google will have done the same with Android 5.0. RIM simply isn't getting things done quickly enough, and no hardware maker is going to wait so long with such furious competition heating things up.

-- Tech vendors don't need BB10. Guess what? None of the smartphone makers on the market need another smartphone platform. Do you really think Samsung, which has sold tens of millions of Galaxy-branded Android phones in the last few years, is hurting for another platform? It ain't, and neither are companies such as Sony, Motorola, HTC, and LG, the most obvious potential licensees.

Even second-tier OEMs, such as Kyocera, Asus, Huawei, and ZTE, are better off sticking with Android as their platform of choice. It's free, it's popular, it sells. There's no reason for companies such as these to pay money to license a platform that has dubious chances of success.

-- RIM Is vertically integrated. RIM's greatest strength is the same as Apple's: it owns every piece of its ecosystem. It controls the platform, the messaging services, the app store, and the hardware. Despite this source of strength, it hasn't been able to capitalize on it to the extent Apple has thanks to poor platform and hardware decisions. RIM can turn both these elements around on its own--if it survives long enough to do so. Licensing out the platform would have the cannibalistic effect of eating into RIM's own hardware sales, weakening it further.

RIM simply needs to bring the best platform and best hardware it can to market as quickly as possible. So far, we're not seeing much evidence that it will be able to do this.

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