IBM is interested in Research In Motion’s enterprise-services unit, according to a pair of unnamed sources speaking to Bloomberg. That unit controls the servers that manage BlackBerry devices.
IBM and RIM habitually refuse to comment on speculation. The Bloomberg report qualified IBM’s approach as “informal.” Despite several quarters’ worth of severe marketplace battering, RIM continues to hold out hope that its upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform will prove a game-changing hit with businesses and consumers.
If BlackBerry 10 fails, however, RIM’s strategic choices become rather stark. In that sinking-ship scenario, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins and his executives will need to decide whether to sell the company in its entirety to another concern, or chop it up for parts. Extending that scenario still further, it seems likely that another firm would make a bid for the enterprise-services unit, considering its assets related to delivering secure data to corporations large and small.
But that’s all in the future. For the moment, RIM is concentrated on launching BlackBerry 10 in its finest possible form. A big part of that effort revolves around convincing third-party developers to build apps and cloud services for a platform that hasn’t even launched yet.
With previous versions of the BlackBerry OS, developers built apps with BlackBerry Java. While those apps aren’t compatible with BlackBerry 10, ones developed for RIM’s PlayBook tablet will apparently port to the upcoming platform without much tweaking. Thus, RIM has been encouraging developers to build for the PlayBook, with an eye toward carrying those apps over to the BlackBerry 10 ecosystem.
A recent estimate by research firm IDC gave BlackBerry a 4.8 percent share of the mobile market, trailing iOS at 16.9 percent and Android at 68.1 percent, but still a tad ahead of Symbian (with 4.4 percent) and Microsoft’s various smartphone platforms (Windows Mobile and Windows Phone) at 3.5 percent.
Once a business-world powerhouse, RIM found its position weakened by the advent of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, in which IT administrators and CIOs let employees bring personal smartphones into the work environment. That weakened RIM’s position among its traditional audience-base.
Nonetheless, the company retains enough of a loyal base among business users to make its assets—including the enterprise-services unit—potentially valuable in the event of a sell-off.