Will Microsoft buy BlackBerry to take on Apple?

May 6th, 2011 - 12:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, May 6 (IANS) With its newly launched PlayBook tablet failing to make a splash and this week’s bold announcements about updating its aging smart phones not enthusing investors, speculation has begun that Microsoft may soon buy BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM).

The speculation has been triggered by the presence of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at RIM’s BlackBerry World annual conference of customers, developers and partners in Florida this week.

Though RIM unveiled new thinner BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930 smart phones, multi-platform BlackBerry enterprise solution, a new BlackBerry operating system and announced to update its aging handset line-up at the annual gathering, the gloom has not lifted from the Canadian wireless giant.

RIM stock, which started plunging after the company last week slashed its quarterly outlook on lower sales, has found few takers, prompting analysts to say that the company that virtually invented the smart phone is in terminal decline and ripe for takeover.

They cite the presence of the Microsoft CEO at BlackBerry World conference as a hint of the obvious happening in the next few months.

These analysts say that if market value of RIM - about $24 billion - keeps sliding at the current rate, the BlackBerry maker will soon be reduced to just $15 billion.

“Microsoft (currently) has $48 billion in cash. If RIM’s value drops to $15 billion, it will become an attractive target for Microsoft. Maybe Steve Ballmer was planting that seed during his keynote appearance at Blackberry World,” Harry Wang, director of mobile research at Parks Associates, told the premier PC Magazine.

Moreover, with its main rival Apple now worth over $320 billion, analysts say the economies of scale will make the BlackBerry maker just uncompetitive against the world’s largest technology company in terms of R&D; spending.

Furthermore, as computing has moved from desktop to laptop and now to smart phones and tablets, Microsoft has realized that it has to enter the mobile space quickly if it has survive. Towards this goal, it has launched Windows 7 Phone and just entered into a strategic tie-up with global handset market leader Nokia which will now adopt Windows 7 Phone as its main smart phone strategy.

But if Microsoft ever have to take on Apple and Google in the mobile space, the software giant would need to target a hardware vendor giant like RIM which fits the bill because the BlackBerry maker will also bring its huge base of enterprise users to Microsoft.

RIM’s just announced partnership with Microsoft to adopt its Bing as the default search engine on its BlackBerries is an obvious hint of things to come in the next few months, say analysts.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

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