As BlackBerry's board of directors formally begin exploring "strategic alternatives," business speak for fiuguring out how to dump the company on someone else, they'll find their options limited, according to two IT sector analysts. All the likely alternatives call for a much-diminished company, or one broken up into some software assets and a brand value that's declining every day.
[ Galen Gruman explains why BlackBerry 10's flop won't help Microsoft's Windows Phone. | Read Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog for what the key business trends mean to you. ]
The board announced Monday the creation of a special committee to explore options to "enhance value and increase scale in order to accelerate" deployment of its BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system and server applications. In theory, everything is on the table, according to the company's statement, including "possible joint ventures, strategic partnerships or alliances, a sale of the company, and other possible transactions."
But potential partners and buyers are unlikely to see the same opportunities as BlackBerry's board, given that its new generation of smartphones, running the innovative BlackBerry 10 operating system, have failed to ignite consumer interest since being released earlier this year.
"BlackBerry is really three companies," says Jack Gold, a principal at J. Gold Associates, an IT research and strategy consultancy. "There's BlackBerry the device, BlackBerry the services, and BlackBerry the community. Each has differing value."
The new BlackBerry 10 smartphones have received mixed reviews. Many reviewers gave BlackBerry an "A" for effort but said the first phones suffer by comparison to the Apple iPhone and Android rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Services assets include the BlackBerry Enterprise Services 10 server (for securing and managing multiple mobile operating systems), secure messaging, and the well-regarded BlackBerry Messenger for text and now video chat and collaboration. "It includes all the mobile device management [MDM] stuff," says Gold. "A cloud-based, cross-platform solution [from BlackBerry] for MDM, mobile application management, and security is the same market that companies like AirWatch and MobileIron have been going after. That could be an attractive stand-alone [business], or an acquisition by one of the other players in that space."