RIM Open to Licensing BlackBerry 10
"Do we license BB10? That's a business model you could think about. Do we partner? Do we ODM?"
These are scenarios new CEO Thorston Heins raised on RIM's earnings call Thursday. He promised to report back on RIM's decision process, but added, "I want to be in the mass market. I want to participate, but the business model has to be a value-creating business model."
RIM's weak fourth-quarter earnings were a wake-up call for the BlackBerry maker and for Heins, CEO as of the last 10 weeks. He used the company's earnings call to assure shareholders it (finally) sees the urgency of its situation and plans to rectify it, beginning with a number of executive exits. (See RIM Chairman Resigns After Bleak Q4 and OS Watch: RIM Loses at Home, Braces for Worse.)
"The benefit of going through this process from the vantage point of CEO is it's very clear to me that substantial change is what the company needs," he said on the call, noting that his perspective on RIM has changed dramatically since Day One on the job. (See RIM CEO Says No 'Seismic' Change Coming.)
Much of Heins's plan for recovery centers on RIM's QNX-based operating system, BlackBerry 10. RIM will make its first BlackBerry 10 prototypes available to developers in May at its developer conference, followed by carrier testing early this summer and commercial launches in the second half of the year, he said. The OS has suffered several delays, but RIM appears confident it'll shake up the market. (See RIM Blames Chipsets for BlackBerry 10 Delay.)
"For BlackBerry 10 we're getting ready not just for a smartphone launch; we're getting ready for a mobile computing platform for the next decade," he said.
Heins fielded many questions on exactly how it's getting ready and kept revisiting the idea of licensing the platform. The only thing he would confirm is that he's still deep in the decision-making process and isn't shooting down any possibilities. Heins said RIM doesn't need to do it all and should stick to what it's good at, namely the enterprise market. (See RIM-Samsung Tie-Up Rumors Won't Die.)
In the nearer term, he said RIM will release new BlackBerry 7 devices in the next few weeks to "reinvigorate our competitive positioning."
It's going to be a while before RIM can win back its shareholders, however. Confidence in the new face at RIM has been waning for a while now. The Wall Street Journal reports that RIM's shares, which had already fallen more than 75 percent in 2011, taking $30 billion in market value with them, have dipped another 8 percent since Heins took office.
As a result, licensing may not be the only thing RIM is open to. When Heins was asked if he'd consider selling the company, he said he believes his team is best to manage the turnaround, but "we'd consider it."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile