Will Samsung License BlackBerry 10?
Research In Motion may need to license its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 platform to survive, and hopes Samsung will play the role of savior.
"Given recent management comments in the press, it now appears that RIM is realizing what Wall Street has been saying for some time: They are a subscale manufacturer and desperately need a partner," wrote Jefferies analyst Peter Misek in a note to clients. "We believe RIM is attempting to revive discussions with Samsung regarding a BB10 licensing deal."
Licensing the platform could help RIM increase penetration in the smartphone market, though the strategy has plenty of risks associated with it. RIM's share of smartphone sales in the most recent quarter dropped to a pitiful 4.8%, far behind market leaders Android and iOS, with 68.1% and 16.9%, respectively.
Last week, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins alluded to a licensing deal, which added fuel to the fire and played a role in influencing Misek's opinion.
[ Among the challenges faced by RIM: Android, iOS Dominate Smartphone Platforms. ]
"We don't have the economy of scale to compete against the guys who crank out 60 handsets a year," said Heins in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. "We have to differentiate and have a focused platform. To deliver BB10 we may need to look at licensing it to someone who can do this at a way better cost proposition than I can do it. There [are] different options we could do that we're currently investigating."
Licensing could be fraught with risk, but RIM may not have any other choice. Interestingly, Misek also thinks Samsung could end up acquiring RIM.
"We believe Samsung is considering ramping up its internal OS [operating system] development efforts, licensing BB10, or buying RIM," wrote Misek. "We think any acquisition is unlikely until after BB10 launches."
In other words, Samsung may wait to see how well BlackBerry 10 does once it reaches the market. Only then might it step in and either license the platform or simply buy RIM outright.
BlackBerry 10 was originally slated to launch during the first quarter of 2012. RIM then pushed the launch back to the "first half" of 2012, and eventually to the "end of the fourth quarter." Meanwhile, Google, Apple, and Microsoft will all launch refreshes of their mobile platforms before BB10 reaches store shelves.
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