There is talk that RIM could be licensing out its proprietary operating system to other manufacturers in the hopes of retaining market share and regaining lost ground in the smartphone business. Gearing up for the BlackBerry 10 release, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins has stated that the company may consider letting other smartphone and embedded device manufacturers run BlackBerry.
RIM has hinted at looking into licensing the OS “to someone who can do this at a way better cost proposition than [RIM] can do it.” Jefferies analyst Peter Misek thinks this could be Samsung, given that the company already develops for several OSes (Android, Bada, Symbian and Windows Phone). After all, BB10 could help Samsung gain more ground in the enterprise market.
Samsung may even be given the chance to license BB10 at no-cost. Or Samsung may consider acquiring RIM altogether, in order to continue its enterprise BlackBerry business.
Misek’s analysis actually resulted in an optimistic outlook for RIM, and RIM stocks rose 10% this August 15th. But in what maybe a big disappointment for RIM, Samsung has actually denied any interest in licensing BB10 nor acquiring RIM.
GigaOM explains it in a nutshell: Samsung is probably not interest because it’s doing so well in selling Android phones. Samsung has had a 44% share of Android sales in Q2 2012. This translates to 440,000 of the 1 million Android devices activated each day.
Samsung still has interests in Bada and even Windows Phone 7, but the fact is that Android devices are the Korean company’s bestsellers. Even if RIM were to give BB10 to Samsung to use for free, Samsung would have to dedicate resources to development and marketing, which does not make sense at this point.
For now, RIM would have to focus on releasing its next OS.
The plan to license out a previously closed OS is a bit reminiscent of Apple’s Macintosh clone program in the mid-1990s, in which the idea back then was to grow market share by letting other manufacturers build devices running Mac OS. But Apple had to cancel the program after two years, thinking it ill-conceived. Apple chose to soldier on as a closed platform. As history would have it, Apple eventually found their success and renown in various closed devices, like the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Is RIM’s plan to license BB10 likewise an ill-conceived idea? Will a licensing option really help keep the platform relevant? Or will it only result in RIM losing control over the platform in the long run, resulting in inconsistent user experience and quality of service?