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  (Source: Lucasfilm)
Is this the beginning of the end for the smartphone marker formerly known as RIM?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that even as struggling Canadian phonemaker BlackBerry Ltd. (TSE:BB) creeps ever closer to death, the company is reportedly looking to strengthen and spin off one of its few products that remains popular.

With BlackBerry sales hitting fresh lows and BlackBerry's OS overhaul experiment being greeted by customer apathy, BlackBerry executives are reportedly pondering spinning off BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), -- the company's instant messaging service.  Eight years after the service's 2005 launch, BBM has evolved to sport a visual appealing messaging UI and secure communication based on the service's tried-and-true PIN messaging underpinnings.  BBM has around 60 million customers at last count.

In May BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins -- under pressure to resign -- signaled a change announcing the coming availability of BBM for Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android and Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL).  The apps have been floating around both in an HTML5 based browser demo and a full-blown beta test form since the June, and rumor has it that Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) will be the first Android phonemaker to bundle the popular messaging client into its devices.

BlackBerry Adieu
BBM may be jumping off the BB wreck. [Image Source:]

In his May announcement, Mr. Heins remarked, "We will make BBM available as the premiere multi-platform IM solution all around the globe.  Why are we doing this now? It’s a statement of confidence.  The BlackBerry 10 platform is so strong and support has been so good that the time is right for BBM to become an independent messaging solution."

In retrospect the latter sentence and emphasis on BBM becoming "independent" may have hinted that rather than a bold -- and much needed -- survivalist transition to a service provider, BlackBerry was instead merely looking to prepare the escape pod for BBM.  The WSJ report claims that BlackBerry has shuffled some executives into the BBM team to enhance its management capabilities, and is adding video chat features to BBM to further enhance its cross platform appeal.

If indeed BB jettisons the successful unit, it will mark yet another fateful loss in the company's quixotic campaign to continue as a smartphone operating system developer, a campaign that pits BB against deep pocket rivals like Apple, Google, and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).

BB Android
Parts of BlackBerry may live on in Android and other platforms.
[Image Source: Despuesdegoogle]

The company's Board of Directors earlier this month announced it was pursuing "strategic alternatives".  That could involve a sale or a breakup of the company's business units.  Outside of BBM, BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) is another part of BB that still is clinging to a strong chunk of business, even if it's less than beloved at times by enterprise clientele.  Outside of that, BB's primary value appears to be confined to its intellectual property portfolio (which it's already partially sold off) and its manufacturing expertise surrounding its industry-leading physical smartphone keyboards.

If BB does split up its unlikely that BB10's software or devices will survive.  While BB10 is in many ways an impressive mobile operating system, it fails to regain ground against Apple and Google's mature efforts.  It even was recently passed by Microsoft's Windows Phone.  

Customers appear to have more or less decided that BB10 is worthless amidst superior competitive offerings; likewise potential buyers will likely do the same as they look to scavenge the treasures amidst the BB scrap pile. 

Source: WSJ

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RE: Unfortunate downward spiral
By ClownPuncher on 8/28/2013 2:39:47 PM , Rating: 2
Z10 call reception has been far better than S3/S4 for our guys out in the field.

RE: Unfortunate downward spiral
By retrospooty on 8/28/2013 3:49:01 PM , Rating: 2
OK... Call reception is better at one particular company in one particular area when compared to 2 other models according to a couple "guys in the field" ?

That isnt really a spec, more of an anecdote. Not quite scientific, and nothing you could put on a spec-sheet unless you can prove it comes in better than many other models in many areas under many circumstances.

RE: Unfortunate downward spiral
By ClownPuncher on 8/28/2013 5:58:00 PM , Rating: 2
Yea, it's not scientific. Most people don't buy phones based on spec sheets, though. Owning a phone is about social status, unless you're a tech guy (like us). People aren't going to buy a BB phone because it doesn't carry any positive social reinforcement. Even if their BB10 offerings had the best specs on the market, they never would have gained back any significant marketshare.

For me, the nice thing is we have so many hardware, software and OS choices these days.

RE: Unfortunate downward spiral
By retrospooty on 8/28/2013 6:15:31 PM , Rating: 2
True... Probably not so much social status, as seeing a phone of their friend of co-workers with whatever features they like and they get it out of familiarity... But that has always been the issue, its not a new thing. BBOS10 is a good OS, and Blackberry totally failed to sell it. They are using last years hardware specs and have done nothing to differentiate themselves and zero marketing effort (I know there are commercials and all the standard stuff, but I mean zero that makes people want to switch) A total fail, made worse by the fact that it is a decent product with a once super strong brand name.

By ClownPuncher on 8/28/2013 7:20:59 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, you need a hook. There was no hook with the BB release. It's a solid product, but nothing stands out as being better. I like the OS better than Android (slightly), but it's not different enough to sell itself.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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