Recent rumours have indicated the possibility of a licensing deal between RIM and some other handset manufacturers. This would be a first in the smartphone industry. A once closed platform running on proprietary hardware will be opening up to competitors. BlackBerry’s own handsets will potentially be competing against other devices running their own hardware. Sounds mad, but it might be a sign of just how much trouble the once great smartphone maker is in at the moment.
They need to look to new revenue streams to try and bolster their core business. BlackBerry handsets aren’t bad, but they just haven’t been able to keep up with Apple and Samsung’s efforts. There are also early signs that the market things it could work as well, with shares in RIM rising rapidly by 13% once the rumour that Samsung was considering a deal broke online.
It also isn’t entirely without precedent for RIM, as their own QNX software (on which BlackBerry OS is based) has already been licensed out to Caterpillar, Cisco, nuclear power plants and military drones. Whether a licensing deal of this kind actually does end up going ahead remains to be seen, but it would at least mean that BlackBerry could return to a focus on their successful core products – secure email and BBM.
It’s certainly in RIM’s interest to keep talking up the licensing options for a while longer while they continue to work on BB OS 10. They haven’t yet even announced any of their own handsets for the coming year so we’ll have to wait and see what BB 10 will look like on one of their own devices before we can even begin to come to terms with what a Samsung with BBM would look like.
Can BB 10 reverse RIM’s forunes? It will take a monumental effort from the software engineers to make their new OS impressive enough to beat Android and iOS. It can’t just be as good as those two alternatives. It has to be significantly better than them if it is to steal market share back. RIM have put themselves in an even worse position as well by having to delay the release until after Windows Phone 8 launches. This has allowed Microsoft to steal a march on them because it’s more than likely that the two OS’s will be going head to head for third place.