In an interview with a German magazine over the weekend, the CEO of Research In Motion Ltd. (NASDAQ: RIMM) said that a possible sale of the company’s hardware unit and licensing the company’s latest operating system are both possible courses of action following the launch later this month of the company’s new BlackBerry 10 smartphone and operating system software.
CEO Thorsten Heins is not really saying anything new here. After having practically disappeared in the shadows of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG), the once undisputed leader in smartphone sales has struggled to regain any competitive credibility at all. That is why the launch of BB10 is so important — the company has essentially bet the farm on the new smartphone.
Finding a buyer for the hardware production seems like a long-shot, no matter how successful the BB10 launch turns out. Making handsets is low-margin business anymore, unless the logo on the device happens to belong to Apple. Just ask Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) or HTC.
Far more likely would be a shutdown of RIM’s hardware business and licensing the software to lower-cost manufacturers. But finding a licensee depends on a blockbuster launch next week — and even though hopes are high, RIM is starting in a big hole.
Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) beat RIM to market with its Windows Phone 8 operating system, and Microsoft gives every indication of wanting to compete hard for a top-three position in smartphones. It goes without saying that Microsoft has much deeper pockets than RIM and could afford to starve the Canadian-based firm out of the competition.
RIM shares are jumping though this morning, up about 8.5% in early trading, at $17.19 in a 52-week range of $6.22 to $17.84. That looks good until one recalls that stock hit an all-time high of around $145 a share in early 2008 before being swept away by Apple and the iPhone.