The BlackBerry community includes 60 million Messenger users, according to Gold, and a total of global base of roughly 90 million. That base could interest emerging smartphone makers in China and other parts of Asia -- companies such as Huawei, ZTE, and Tata -- if they see those millions as evidence of still-existing brand value. Despite BlackBerry's massive decline in the U.S., "it's still a recognized brand," according to Gold.
"Could one of them buy instant brand recognition and leverage the market?" Gold asks. "They could under the right circumstances."
But the best outcome for BlackBerry is a leveraged buyout that takes the company private, according to Gold. "Once that's done, you're a private business without stockholders or government overseers," he says.
But another analyst says there's less to BlackBerry's value than meets the eye. "BlackBerry Messenger is the only viable, attractive asset for a prospective buyer," says Jack Narcotta, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "The likelihood of BlackBerry existing as an independent software-only company is as slim as its cash reserves. The other assets and [the] subscriber base simply lack the scale needed to support transforming [the current company] into that business model."
There's little that can be done to change that. "The fuel on the fire for BlackBerry as it exists today isn't so much that its software is lacking," Narcotta says. "It's that BlackBerry is being overwhelmed by the flood of Android and iOS devices coming over the walls into the enterprise."
If there is a buyer, the most likely candidate is Samsung, he says. The South Korean smartphone maker has launched over the past year two programs to improve Android mobile security and management: Samsung for Enterprise (SAFE) improves security for Samsung phones and tablets targeted at enterprise users, and Knox provides security enhancements to the underlying Android operating system.
"Samsung emerges as the most likely vendor to scoop up BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Enterprise Services and integrate them into Android," Narcotta says. "BBM dovetails with Samsung's Knox and SAFE security initiatives nicely. Most BB10 apps are ported versions of Android apps, somewhat streamlining the process for BBM's core kernels and software development kits to be 'Android-ized.'"
Neither analyst expects large-scale disruptions for enterprise BlackBerry and BES users, in part because so many have been already embracing iOS and Android. Narcotta says BlackBerry's future as an acquisition isn't "ideal" for customers but he's confident there will be a path to new vendors and services over time.
"BlackBerry is not likely to simply cease to exist, and if you find benefit in BES, as many shops do, it's not likely you will simply be orphaned any time soon," says Gold. "Contingency plans are good, but no need to panic."
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.