If you build it, they will come.
That’s what ailing Research in Motion is banking on, anyway, as it considers licensing its BlackBerry 10 operating system to other manufacturers interested in putting out a BlackBerry smartphone. BlackBerry’s market share has dropped to around 6.5%, and the only reason it hasn’t fallen further is its former stranglehold on the enterprise market.
RIM’s current position near the bottom of the smartphone OS market leaves a short list of companies that might be interested in releasing BlackBerry 10 phones. The companies most likely to hop on the RIM train those which have yet to find much success in the ever-crowded Android field. What follows is which companies we believe are the most likely suspects.
In 2009 and 2010, HTC saw a prolific rise propelled by Android. The company was releasing Android handsets in droves, and people loved them. The build quality on most HTC devices was fantastic, HTC Sense was the best Android custom skin on the market, and the company was the first to embrace Android as a platform. HTC Android phones were everywhere, and they sold very well.
Then came Samsung, which kicked HTC off the Android throne. Never really much of a player in the smartphone market before, the company’s Galaxy line of devices (the S, SII, and SIII) have really taken off and are largely considered the de facto Android smartphone. The company’s current flagship Galaxy S III phone is widely heralded as the best phone on the market, and the devices are literally flying off the shelves.
Meanwhile, HTC has seen decent but relatively lackluster sales for its HTC One line of devices, and the company has dabbled in Windows Phone devices. Despite its effort, the company’s financial situation has declined from its peak a few years back. Sure, HTC is still one of the top Android manufacturers out there, but its fall from the top leaves them a potential candidate for exploring a relationship with RIM to test the waters by releasing an HTC BlackBerry smartphone.
ZTE is still relatively unknown in the US, but its Android-based smartphones sell quite well in the Asian Pacific Region. The company has ambitious goals for its smartphone division, wanting to sell a whopping 25 million smartphones in the remainder of 2012 and become a top 3 manufacturer by 2015. Further, they desperately want to get into the US market, and a partnership with BlackBerry 10 may help it get there. Sure, we aren’t going to see BlackBerry 10 ready until early 2013, but releasing a BlackBerry phone could help ZTE meet its lofty goals.
Another name that’s been thrown around in several RIM rumors is Amazon. Okay, so Amazon’s currently actively embraced Android with the Kindle Fire, and is reportedly working on a Kindle Phone that runs on the Android platform as well. But what’s to stop them from changing it up and releasing a BlackBerry device?
Amazon has one goal when it comes to hardware sales: getting as many units in the hands of customers so they can spend lots of money in Amazon’s ecosystem. Amazon wants nothing short of everyone in the world to become Prime Members, utilize its cloud storage platform, and buy music, books, and video content from its stores. While BlackBerry as a platform may be on the way out from a consumer standpoint, if Amazon sees something it likes in BlackBerry 10, it may be willing to take a chance on the platform and release a phone, tablet, or both that run RIM’s operating system.
We know Amazon could bolster its e-commerce platform with RIM technologies (Amazon uses BlackBerry 10’s QNX software service in its warehouses), and that the company has had its eyes on BlackBerry Messenger in the past, but I have a hard time seeing Amazon simply deciding to release a BlackBerry 10-running phone or tablet as they’ve done with Android.
Like ZTE, sales of LG Android phones have failed to take off anywhere but the Asian Pacific region the company calls home. LG has come out with more high-profile devices such as the Optimus 2X and the upcoming Optimus 4X HD and Optimus Vu, though they company has gained only limited success with the company’s smartphone line thus far. With Samsung and HTC ruling the Android roost, LG could potentially look to BlackBerry 10 as a platform to break into the North American market.
LG also has a variety of appliances and other devices in its repertoire. With the move towards smart-houses, LG could partner with RIM’s BlackBerry 10 to bring smart technology made possible by QNX to its washers, dryers, refrigerators, and television sets. LG is currently working with the Android@Home project on these devices, but maybe it could see the potential in BlackBerry 10 and take a leap of faith in the fledgling platform.
The company we all love to pronounce out loud, Huawei is yet another company with lofty ambitions that has yet to make it in a crowded Android field. Huawei phones continue to do well in Asia, though Huawei’s presence in North America is largely non-existent. Huawei dreams of becoming a household name, and one way to achieve success would be to get in early on the BlackBerry 10 train with the hope that the platform takes off.
Sony is another solid potential candidate to make a BlackBerry 10 device. The company gave up on Symbian a few years back, and has had only limited success with Android. BlackBerry has one of the best messaging services out there with BlackBerry Messenger, and Sony could leverage BlackBerry Messenger to rope more people into the service. Imagine the next PS Vita or Xperia Play 2 (or, the next PlayStation console) connecting gamers via BlackBerry Messenger. A Sony-RIM partnership would be mutually beneficial, as Sony could single-handedly make Blackberry 10 a gaming powerhouse.
Sony hasn’t been doing so hot financially lately either, and its smartphone products have really failed to take off as of yet, so a partnership with RIM could make sense for the company.
We’re not going to see Samsung, Apple, Google/Motorola, or Nokia release a BlackBerry 10 device anytime soon, though each of these companies at any time could purchase RIM as a company, perhaps just for the company’s $1 to $4 billion’s worth of patents. This leaves the more minor players in the smartphone market to potentially consider a partnership in RIM in hopes that the BlackBerry 10 platform will steal market share away from iOS and Android.
Of course, customers are souring on BlackBerry, and analysts are growing more and more skeptical that BlackBerry 10 can save RIM, so any company hoping to release a BlackBerry 10 device is taking more than a bit of a gamble. With all risky gambles, though, come hopes of a big payoff, which could see any of the above-named companies riding high in 2013 and beyond.
Which company do you think will release a BlackBerry 10 smartphone/tablet, or do you think most companies see the writing on the wall for RIM and the BlackBerry platform?