IBM latest firm with reported interest in RIM
Enterprise giant has made overtures about BlackBerry maker's corporate services, but RIM remains cautious, say sources
Published: 10 August, 2012
Samsung having, yet again, denied any interest in buying RIM, speculation has turned in another direction - and perhaps a more fruitful one. IBM is said to be interested in acquiring the BlackBerry maker's enterprise services business which, even though the devices may grab more headlines, is clearly the most valuable aspect of the firm.
In areas like mobile messaging and device management for enterprises, RIM retains genuine expertise and differentiation, and these capabilities are becoming more critical in the era of BYOD (bring your own device), even if that trend is partly to blame for the crisis facing the BlackBerry products. IBM has been building up its own mobile enterprise activities for several years by acquiring various firms and extending its own services and software frameworks, so there is some logic to the reports.
According to "people familiar with the situation" who spoke to Bloomberg, IBM has made an informal approach to RIM, with a particular interest in its network of secure servers and its Mobile Fusion back end platform, which extends BlackBerry management capabilities to other devices.
Insiders say RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins remains cautious about breaking up or selling the company, despite the demands of some activist shareholders. Therefore any final decisions are likely to wait until RIM rolls outs BlackBerry 10 and the accompanying devices, which RIM hopes will boost its fortunes and its value. However, with BB10 delayed until early next year, and RIM's shares falling all the time, that hesitation could prove impractical, especially if IBM progresses from general interest to concrete negotiations.
Despite Heins' instinct to turn RIM around before selling, with new products and a major cost reduction program, the firm did hire JPMorgan Chase and RBC Capital Markets in May to study "strategic options", though the CEO has repeatedly said he would prefer to find an investment partner or a licensee for BB10 than a sell-out. Only last week there was a revival of talk that Samsung was set to license BB10, or even buy the vendor, but the Korean firm denied the rumors outright.