The enterprise-services unit of BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion-a company deep into a major transition by some counts and in a "death spiral" by others-has piqued the interest of IBM, Bloomberg has reported.
"IBM made an informal approach about possibly acquiring the division, which operates a network of secure servers used to support RIM's BlackBerry devices," said the report, citing a source who wished to remain unnamed.
Noting that the business may be valued between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, the report added that "no party has shown interest in buying all of RIM or the division that makes its phones," and RIM is unlikely to entertain any offers until the release of BlackBerry 10.
Delayed a second time, now until early 2013, BlackBerry 10 is an entirely new platform for RIM and will be introduced with new smartphones. RIM is, to say the least, betting big on it. While new-CEO Thorsten Heins has trimmed away all initiatives and developments not inherent to "core" RIM offerings, and is in the processing of letting go of 5,000 employees, it's BlackBerry 10 that has been tasked with saving the company and preventing subscribers from defecting to Android and Apple handsets.
Analysts with Jefferies have suggested that Samsung could potentially buy RIM or license its BlackBerry 10 platform.
Expecting an update on RIM's status during its Sept. 27 earnings call, analyst Peter Misek wrote in an Aug. 7 research note that RIM seems to have realized "what Wall Street has been saying for some time: they are a subscale manufacturer and desperately need a partner. We believe RIM is attempting to revive discussions with Samsung regarding a BB10 licensing deal."
Misek, like the analysts commenting on interest from IBM, doesn't expect anything to happen until after BlackBerry 10's release, as RIM will want to see how the platform fares.
While RIM selling its enterprise-services unit is akin to "offloading their jewel," as Berenberg analysts Adnaan Ahmad told Bloomberg, Samsung could most use RIM's new mobile platform. The company's wildly successful smartphones-Samsung is now the top-selling mobile phone maker, as well as the leading smartphone maker--rely on Google's Android. While that's working out perfectly for now, Jefferies' Misek wrote, the "2- to 5-year outlook is concerning."
Like Apple, Samsung's primary rival, the latter will want the benefits of being able to control both the hardware and software sides of its business.
While Samsung could develop its own mobile operating system-as it has with Bada, which the carriers aren't crazy about, according to Misek-or even license BB10 from RIM, the best of its "lackluster" options is to buy RIM, wrote Misek.
"BB10 would provide insurance in case Microsoft and/or Google vertically integrate. BB10's user interface has been generally well reviewed and it brings security and bandwidth consumption benefits that are lacking on Android and Windows," Misek wrote. "Samsung would have a compelling offering for the enterprise."
Until January, however, when Heins has promised to deliver the first BB10 smartphones, the industry, with RIM, will have to wait and see.