RIM weighs options, maybe you should too

RIM has reportedly hired bankers to explore options for the sinking company. If you depend on BlackBerry, you need to consider your future.

RIM’s ship is sinking. The company announced its second straight losing quarter, and plans to let a significant number of employees go. It has also reportedly enlisted the support of J.P. Morgan Chase and RBS Capital Markets to help it shop for partners or suitors to eke out some value before the whole thing comes crashing down. If your business relies on BlackBerry devices, perhaps its time for you to consider your options as well.

The demise of RIM isn’t really news. I’ve been chronicling the downward spiral of the iconic smartphone platform for some time. I respect the fact that there are actual people who work for RIM, and families that will be impacted by the fallout should RIM fade into oblivion, but the reality is what it is.

Don’t throw dirt on the coffin just yet, though. There are still options for RIM that could keep it afloat, or at least give the BlackBerry platform a new lease on life--perhaps under the stewardship of new owners. Who knows? I’m not suggesting everyone abandon ship today, but you should at least scope out where the life boats are situated and have a plan in place to transition off of BlackBerry if the need arises.

It seems to me that the most likely outcome for RIM will be to sell off much of its patent portfolio. Other mobile platforms and device makers could benefit from having RIM’s patents in their arsenal for the ongoing legal battles that have become standard operating procedure for the tech industry.

If RIM does sell the lion’s share of its patents, though, it doesn’t mean the company will disappear entirely. RIM has already put pieces in place that could hint at what the future holds for the company--BlackBerry Mobile Fusion. BlackBerry Mobile Fusion extends the capabilities of BlackBerry Enterprise Server to enable customers to manage iOS and Android devices in addition to BlackBerry.

The up side for BlackBerry customers is that Mobile Fusion also provides a path to transition to other mobile platforms, and continue to squeeze value from the existing investment in a BlackBerry infrastructure.

RIM essentially pioneered the concept of MDM (mobile device management), and it can leverage its current customer base to embrace that role and transition its business model to become a leader in MDM. It can take the cash from a patent portfolio sale, and dump it into innovating and refining its MDM platform.

For businesses that have invested in a BlackBerry infrastructure and rely on BlackBerry devices for mobile communications, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion is a perfect solution. Customers can continue to use the BlackBerry management tools they’re accustomed to, and move to alternate platforms like iOS and Android by attrition.

I offered my two cents a few months ago for how RIM could turn things around. It seems that RIM doesn’t read my posts, but it’s not too late for RIM, or the customers who depend on BlackBerry devices. At this point, the answer is simple for both parties: focus on BlackBerry Mobile Fusion.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)

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