Research In Motion should license out BlackBerry, but not just the software

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| December 20, 2011

In a report that came out today, the world learned that Amazon gave some serious thought into buying Research In Motion. At the same time, we all learned that the people behind the scenes at Research In Motion decided against a sale of any kind, and that any future talk of such a thing wasn’t on the table. No, the company would rather do it based on their own merits and products. Oh, and let’s not forget some restructuring of the corporate hierarchy, too. Let me just be clear in saying that I think it’s great that RIM wants to do things on their own. It shows determination, and that has to count for something. Unfortunately for RIM, though, they’ve been doing things on their own, and it’s just not working. Not anymore.

In the updated report, sources speaking to The Wall Street Journal said that RIM executives had actually gone to manufacturers like Samsung and HTC and talked about licensing BlackBerry OS to them. This isn’t anything new, and we’ve talked about seeing the BlackBerry OS on other devices before in the past. And while some of you out there may want it, I don’t think that’s the point here. Truth be told, if the majority wanted BlackBerry 7, they’d use BlackBerry 7. I have to think it’s a strange situation to assume that it’s the hardware that’s not selling BlackBerry-branded handsets.

We know that’s not the case, right?

As much as I would love to stand behind the fact that RIM apparently wants to do his thing on their own, it’s just not working anymore. It just isn’t. And the fact that BlackBerry 10-based devices won’t be seeing the light of day until the end of 2012 just proves that. Things have been out of control at the Waterloo-based headquarters for quite some time, and no matter how hard RIM tries, or what they do, it doesn’t seem to be enough to do more than just barely keep themselves afloat. We keep talking about the impending fall, and that outlook isn’t changing.

But you know what? RIM has a good idea. They should license out BlackBerry, but not just the OS. No, because people don’t want just the OS. They should license the hardware, too. BlackBerry should be able to focus on creating the best hardware they can, and have the necessary teams to focus on the software, too. Because, there’s no doubt in my mind that if Samsung or HTC were allowed to get their hands on BlackBerry OS, they’d put their proprietary user interfaces on it before they ever released it to the public.

And that’s the kicker. The sweet spot, if you will. Research In Motion’s upcoming BlackBerry 10 is a huge refresh for the smartphone lineage, and it’s one that could very well breathe a breath of fresh air into the company. But, I don’t think it can do it by itself, even with the great hardware. So that’s where licensing the software and hardware to the likes of Samsung, HTC, or even Microsoft could make a huge difference. You let Samsung make the flagship BlackBerry 10 device, featuring the Samsung name, but featuring the hardware and software made by RIM, and featuring Samsung’s altered proprietary TouchWiz UI.

Or you don’t let Samsung touch the hardware at all, but just alter the software with their proprietary UI and see where things go. But, I think RIM needs to license out everything to make a dent – both hardware and software. Whatever that means on the business side of things, whether or not they would have to completely sell themselves to another company, or whatever the details would be, I think that’s a step that RIM needs to take to still be a contender, or even a presence, in the mobile market.