Rumor: RIM to Sell Handset Business

Illustration for article titled Rumor: RIM to Sell Handset Business

The Sunday Times is reporting that RIM is planning to split its handset and messaging network into two separate companies, then sell off the ill-fated BlackBerry hardware business.

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As part of the move, the newspaper suggests that RIM would keep its messaging and data networks—including BBM, BIS, and BES—in-house, and then license them out to third parties. That's a theory that's been floated before, but never come to fruition.

The news comes on the back of a strategic review carried out by RIM in conjunction with RBC and JP Morgan. Though The Sunday Times does not explicitly cite any sources in its report, it does suggest that Facebook or Amazon may both prove to be "potential buyers" of the hardware wing.

It's really the latest in a long line of attempts to fix the company's ailing fortunes. The Sunday TImes explains that RIM's final course of action will be revealed sometime this summer. [Sunday Times via Reuters via The Verge]

DISCUSSION

jehovasblitzness
Jehovah's Blitzness

This is nonsense... there's no value in the handset business without BBM, BIS, and BES.

The only way RIM is going to get any return for its shareholders is if they sell their entire business to somebody looking for their patent portfolio, who can milk their government contracts in the short term, while integrating BIS and BES into a more viable platform in the long term.

Of the big players, in no particular order:

Apple: Wouldn't really fit their MO or culture; they'd never sustain the handset business, but could really help with corporate/government adoption to have BES in their back pocket. (#5)

Google: They've already got a dying handset maker in Motorola, and Android's model isn't really conducive to integrating a technology like BES. They could certainly get some value out of RIM's assets and patent portfolio, but it just doesn't feel right. (#4)

Microsoft: Synergies galore, and they'd be great at winding down the handset business. Plenty of cash on the balance sheet, and with Windows 8 coming out, it'd be a really compelling offering for Windows 9 to transition a fleet of corporate handsets seemlessly to Windows. This would be the best fit, but I'm not sure Microsoft is as hungry for this as some of their dumber competition (#3)

Amazon: The handsets themselves are way outside of Amazon's core competency. The patent portfolio wouldn't really add any additional value to Amazon than it would to any of the other companies. I'm not sure how BBM/BIS/BES would integrate into Amazon's cloud services, but this isn't really a logical fit. (#6)

HP: The leading candidate, IMO, because they are love making aimless acquisitions of dying businesses with no plan to extract or enhance value. (#1)

Facebook: If the rumors of a Facebook Phone are true, then this makes a lot of sense. Zuck just raised a bunch of capital with no plans for spending it, so there's cash on the balance sheet to get a deal done. RIM has hardware and software capabilities, and the patent portfolio would ease Facebook's transition into mobile handsets. I still believe Facebook thinks it's more ubiquitous than it is if it wants to make a handset, but RIM would be a natural place to start for them. (#2)

Nokia: They're all-in on the Windows platform. Acquiring RIM would be an interesting gambit, and could actually be strategically advantageous for them (remember, internationally, Nokia has been very popular.) I just think from a practical standpoint, they're too busy with all of their other strategic initiatives to pull this off. (#7)

Dell: No chance. They're transitioning out of hardware and into services. (#8)