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Microsoft Could Save RIM and BlackBerry, Help Windows Phone Platform


RIM’s fall from grace has been well documented, and the company recently took another hit with the departure of two senior executives in what is starting to become a trend at the company. Senior Vice President Alan Brenner is in the midst of a transition period, while Alistair Mitchell, a vice president with BlackBerry’s instant messaging platform, has already left.

Once a dominant powerhouse, RIM has seen their shares plummet from its once unreachable perch atop the market.  The company seems to lack direction as they continue to make one failed venture after another – everything from the lengthy delay of BlackBerry 10 to the PlayBook has been less than fruitful, to say the least, for the company’s waning finances and investor confidence.

RIM seems to be putting their full support behind BlackBerry 10, which could make or break the company. The new OS appears to be a large departure from older iterations, but it looks like a combination of Android’s and Windows Phone’s interface. While the QNX-based OS has some potential, RIM is already lagging far behind the competition, and the company can hardly afford to wait for their new OS to mature and be widely adopted.

BlackBerry 10 needs to be a finished and polished product at launch that focuses on the user experience – quality must be top notch, communication needs to be seamless, apps need to be readily available and it should offer something unique that other platforms don’t. However, even if RIM manages to deliver on all fronts, that doesn’t guarantee any sort of turnaround for the company. Buzz for BlackBerry 10 is low, and the continued momentum of iOS and Android will only make things tougher. Also, with no new major products on the horizon until the launch of BlackBerry 10, RIM will continue to see their market share dip at a pivotal time.

Despite an increasingly bleak future, BlackBerry is still a strong global brand and RIM still has a number of attractive assets. CEO Thorsten Heins has gone on record saying that RIM wouldn’t rule out a sale or joint venture with another company, which is where Microsoft can come in and take advantage of the opportunity.

Of course, fixing RIM’s woes is not as simple as agreeing to a partnership or an outright sale – a joint venture between RIM and Microsoft would only lay the groundwork for a much larger endeavor, but one that would be much easier with the backing of the Redmond giant.

RIM had a stranglehold on the enterprise market – able to tout quick, easy, and secure communication, the BlackBerry was the platform of choice for companies around the world. Power players in government and corporate offices were practically attached at the hip to their “CrackBerry” handsets and they could be seen everywhere, but more and more companies are moving away from the BlackBerry and allowing their employees to adopt different phones.

Enterprise market experience is one of several factors that make a partnership with — or purchase of  — RIM helpful to Microsoft. With RIM in Microsoft’s corner, they could use the Canadian company as an enterprise focused division that could aid Microsoft and Windows Phone in gaining a foothold in the enterprise market, which could be the needed momentum they need to battle against Apple and Google. Also, associating RIM with Windows Phone will only help its popularity and appeal. BlackBerry still has a fierce and loyal following that could eventually adopt the fledgling Windows Phone platform, which could help grow the slow but steadily expanding user base.

As for RIM, by refocusing their efforts on what made the company so successful in the first place and not trying to compete in a consumer market that has already left them far behind, they have a chance to recapture some of their former glory. Less time and money being poured into platform development would allow the company to shift resources and concentrate on other priorities. The adoption of the Windows Phone Marketplace would also bring an army of developers to help expand BlackBerry’s presence and reach.

A major obstacle is RIM’s current price point, which is still not at a desirable number for prospective buyers. It’s doubtful something imminent is on the way – for any company in the market — in terms of a potential sale of RIM, but a partnership might be more palatable for a company like Microsoft as it would carry less risks.

So what do you think? Should Microsoft take a risk on RIM or avoid them at all costs?