Saving Rim, Part 3: NokiaSoft

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Blackberry is in the news again, this time for not getting bought by Microsoft.

We all know the story of Blackberry, if not, here’s the recap. An innovative Canadian upstart that captured the cellphone market with QWERTY keyboards and enterprise ready email integration. One of the first true smartphones and choice of business’s all over the world. Like all great things, imitation was the purest form of flattery and Palm and Microsoft began nipping at the champs heals. Finally Apple jumped in and changed the game for everyone.

RIM wasn’t worried though. Perhaps they should have been.

Palm (remember them?) floundered and was swallowed up by HP, then sacrificed to the tablet god. Blackberry began its slow decline right thought its own tablet attempt and face lift. At this point Blackberry was seen as your dad’s phone, sturdy but incompetent in the new world of Facetime and Facebook.  Despite the heavy marketing effort to signal otherwise, RIM could not make up for a lack of R&D and the  giant technological eco-systems from Apple and Google.

Microsoft stalled on a few devices, trying to perfect the Windows phone which they didn’t really do it until they found a partner with Nokia. At that point, Blackberry and Microsoft partnership seemed like a good idea, Microsoft’s RT wasn’t cutting it, neither was Blackberry’s OS system… Palms OS was dead and Nokia’s ancient Symbian was freshly buried.

The Genius of Nokia. The last maker of Dumbphones.

The Nokia CEO made the right call to partner with Microsoft. The developing world is the largest growth market left to conquer. Nokia has the best penetration worldwide and at the price points needed to serve these regions. Blackberry would have always demanded a premium and would have stayed that way to preserve it’s model. So when looking for a partner to grab the #3 market share, Microsoft had two options. A) High value, small segment B) Medium / low value + huge segment, and went with the latter.

Microsoft and Nokia are playing the long game, the global one.

In the end I know Nokia was a better deal for Microsoft’s global plans but as a proud Canadian and a business person, it would have been really interesting to see Microsoft resources reinvigorate Blackberry. I think Microsoft would have gained some fresh perspective and a leg up on their tablet game and found a natural partner for their office suite of software. No one knows what’s next for Blackberry (other then an eventual sale), perhaps Microsoft is so big they will have the cash leftover for a purchase, but I doubt they would want the headache at this time.

Companies with a lot of cash that want to play the cellphone game and market to the business and enterprise sector might see Blackberry as a logical extension of their brand – I’m looking at you Sony.

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