This week seen the struggling, Ontario-based smartphone maker Blackberry, announced that it is exploring “strategic alternatives” which could mean the sale of the company. This announcement was to be expected at some point this month, as Reuters reported last week that the company are “open” to going private, after years of their share price falling by 90 per-cent after it hit its peak in 2008.
The report by Reutersnoted down Silver Lake Partners , the private equity firm currently in the works of sealing a deal to take Dell private for $25 million, as the potential source of funding that could allow them to make the changes necessary, outside of the public eye. Other reports suggest Blackberry could be bought out by Microsoft, as they look more interested in getting involved in the hardware business after they released the Surface RT. Both sound like solid suggestions, and both involve a partnership of some sort. Which leads me to believe that rather than sell of bits of their business, Blackberry could stay in the game. But how?
The smartphone market is probably the most competitive its ever been
The smartphone market is probably the most competitive its ever been. You have Google, who own over half of the smartphone marketshare, and have recently made their Android OS on par/better in areas than iOS. Then you have Apple, who own around twenty five-to-thirty per-cent of the market, and are currently in the works revamping the visual elements of iOS. Finally its Microsoft, who are trying their best to build out a developer friendly environmentthat draws developers into the expanding Windows Phone platform.
Whats interesting about each of those that I’ve mentioned is their endeavours recently, in the wearable tech industry. Google are breaking in with Glass, and Apple are rumoured to be working on a watch similar to the Nike Fuelband. Microsoft meanwhile, don’t have any offering at the minute. They are instead focused on making Windows 8 right and anticipating the release of the Xbox One. But could Blackberry allow Microsoft to enter this area?
One thing that has to be said about Google’s and Apple’s wearable tech offerings, is that they are both for consumers. They are both designed for consumers, with them in mind. Whilst we haven’t seen an iWatch or any sort of attempt at breaking into the wearable tech market by Apple, you can be sure that like every product they make, it will be oriented at consumers. But what if Microsoft made one for the enterprise market? A wearable piece of tech designed for the modern businessman, designed and built in a joint venture between Microsoft, Blackberry and Dell.
Both Blackberry and Microsoft have the enterprise pedigree, and coupled with Dell who have the manufacturing resources, they might just be able to pull off such an ambitious move on the market. I say this because, like the smartphone market seven years ago, wearable technology is an emerging market, which means all of the marketshare and establishment I mentioned above is non-existant. Sure brand awareness is there, but if the product is good enough, I don’t see why people wouldn’t want it.
Its not just a way out for Blackberry, its a gateway into a market they could gain traction in if done right.
Enough funding could come from Silver Lake and other private equity investors to keep Blackberry in the smartphone business, so they can create hardware in conjunction with Dell for Windows Phone – kind of like Motorola is to Google without the cultural clashes – and Dell could produce quality tablets that have Microsoft and Blackberry enterprise software on them, all the while proving to investors that they still have what it takes to innovate.
Its a long shot, and must be done in such a way that structuring is done carefully in order to avoid clashes and product delays – something Blackberry have a track record of in the last year. And of course, Windows would have to be the front of all this, but the technologies in Blackberry 10 can be implemented into the Windows Blue ecosystem. Ultimately, I think this is something new. Its not just a way out for Blackberry, its a gateway into a market they could gain traction in if done right.