With the launch of BlackBerry 10 OS imminent, there has been a lot of buzz surrounding the latest punt at a smartphone by Research In Motion.
Initial reception for BB10 and the alpha devices running it has been fairly good. But recently, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that the company might consider selling the company’s hardware division after the launch of BB10. Even though this is not a firm yes, RIM is said to be mulling at options ahead of them. Heins didn’t rule out the possibility of licensing the new OS to other OEMs. However, he also pointed out that there was no decision being taken before the official launch of BB10 devices. With the BB10 launch already nearing, RIM’s shares have picked up, which is a good sign for the Canadian manufacturer who have endured tough times in the market for the past few years.
But the question of licensing brings up the interesting possibility of seeing the RIM-developed BB10 OS running on a high-end handset manufactured by the likes of Samsung or HTC. BlackBerry 10 is still relative unknown, of course. But we do know that RIM has been the subject of constant speculation with regards to acquisitions. Only last week, Lenovo’s CFO was reported as saying that the Chinese company is looking at options to acquire or enter into a strategic alliance with RIM. While there is no dearth of OEMs in the market, very few can match the manufacturing capability, rate of production and core hardware strength that Samsung brings to the table. So, will a Samsung-made BB10 device work?
A mock-up showing BB10 running on a Galaxy Note 2
Well, for one, stranger things have happened. There’s no denying that the lure of a successful BB10 and the fact it can be licensed to run on its devices would be too much to resist for Samsung. The Korean electronics giant has been churning out devices on nearly every platform that has been opened for manufacturers. Samsung has a finger in every pie and several fingers awaiting new pastry to dig into. From well-known OSes like Android, Windows Phone, Bada and Symbian to relative unknowns like Brew to the upcoming Tizen, Samsung has tried almost everything that has been opened up for manufacturers. Obviously, this means that Samsung’s core strength is hardware. Undoubtedly, it brings some killer specs to its high-end devices. So it is not so unforeseeable a prospect as most would like to believe. Samsung likes showing off its hardware and if initial impressions of BB10 are any indication, then the OS should run super snappy on Samsung’s devices with their high-resolution displays and their fantastic multimedia capabilities.
For RIM, a partnership with Samsung will see its stock soar. Samsung has the knack of creating hype around its devices and it already expects to sell hundreds of millions of devices this year. For RIM, moving that many devices seems a Herculean task and certainly the focus with BB10 will be to reverse the bad reputation the Canadian company has developed in the market. Samsung can repair and indeed fully heal the flagging sales figures of RIM. We, for one, are itching to see what happens when you pair Samsung’s killer hardware with the smooth BB10 OS.
RIM once had a dominant hold on smartphones at work, but this has been decreasing a great deal thanks to shift in focus to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Samsung realised how BlackBerry has slipped and has added enterprise-specific solutions in its flagship smartphones such as Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. With the launch of SAFE (Samsung for Enterprise), Samsung is going directly after RIM in the one part of the market RIM still controls to a certain extent. The programme includes SAFE Platform, SAFE Partner Program and SAFE Quality Assurance, which enable dedicated apps for data and email, on-device encryption, virtual private networks and mobile device management. This indicates that Samsung is starting to understand communication within the corporate space and has the ability to introduce new software features into existing platforms. Indeed, the SAFE programme is the first of its kind introduced into Android by a major OEM.
The major impediment in this scenario is that Samsung has a good thing going with Google and Android. Why fix something that’s not broken? There is the small matter of Google acquiring Motorola. With the manufacturing prowess of Motorola and Google’s own expertise at software, Android-focussed OEMs might have a fight on their hands from the Mother Ship. If Google decides to push its own devices manufactured by Motorola to a larger audience, it will eat into Samsung’s healthy market share lead. The buzz created by the rumoured X Phone is a great case in point. Everyone knows Google is not to be trifled with. The search giant has a way of making sure every one of its offerings eventually catch up to the market leader. Like in the case of Google+, which took second spot from Twitter in the social network charts recently. Could a profitable Googorola (Yes, we went there!) be the impetus Samsung needs to jump onto the BB10 bandwagon, if and when such a wagon wheels its way around?