10:44 PM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry

RIM Taps Goldman Sachs To Explore Options

Is hiring the investment firm a sign that the BlackBerry maker is ready to seriously entertain buyout offers?

It's true that 2011 was surely among the worst for RIM, and 2012 isn't shaping up to be much better.

Operational issues like the big network crash of 2011 aside, RIM is still in trouble. The current BlackBerry OS 7.0 was effectively dead on arrival. Everyone knew that BlackBerry 10 was in the works long before 7.0 hit the streets. BlackBerry 10 is a complete rewrite using the QNX platform, similar to the PlayBook tablet, and is a major undertaking for the company. The problem with knowing an all-new OS is in the works is it tamps enthusiasm for the current platform, both from a user and developer standpoint.

Making matters worse is the launch date keeps getting pushed out. Don't expect to see a phone running the new OS until late 2012.

RIM's foray into the tablet market hasn't been a success either. The company is selling all of the PlayBooks for $299. Why anyone would pay $299 for a 16 GB model when you can get the 64 GB version for the same price is beyond me. The whole thing looks like a closeout sale to me.

None of these issues alone is critical, but together they add up. The board has finally realized things won't get any better without some outside help. It has hired Goldman Sachs to help RIM out of the mess it is in. It looks like the company has realized that doing more of the same will yield only the same results, which haven't been good.

Recall we saw rumors of buyout offers, or at least feelers, in 2011 from Amazon and a Nokia/Microsoft partnership.Those rumors may bear fruit this year.

Android and iOS are putting significant pressure on BlackBerry, and despite Windows Phone's distant 4th place status in the market, the platform is modern and is expected to show a lot of growth this year. RIM is the odd man out--its current platform is ancient in comparison and there will be nothing new for months. A sale or other venture could be the best thing for the company and its shareholders.

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