Last week Meg Whitman slapped down any speculation that HP would buy struggling RIM. Instead, she said HP would make its own smartphone way. That doesn’t mean that RIM will not undergo a renaissance, and the announcement of a licensing agreement with Microsoft could be part of that.
Not that Microsoft has any designs either, and certainly the financial markets are not reading it that way; share price in Microsoft hardly registered a ripple following the announcement, while those of RIM jumped over 2%, a sure sign that RIM investors are hopeful, and Microsoft investors indifferent.
That is not to dismiss this agreement because, for RIM at least, it will provide some extra muscle as it tries to grab back some of the market share that was whipped out from under its feet by iOS and Android.
The agreement will enable RIM put Microsoft technology on some of its phones, facilitating the movement of audiovisual files between desktops and mobile devices.
Specifically, the deal applies to Microsoft’s Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) that was developed for flash drives and should enable RIM to provide its phones with more and better multimedia capabilities.
For Microsoft this appears to be just one of dozens of licensing deals that the Redmond company enters into every year, with a similar deal already signed for the exFAT technology to Sony and Sharp.
In fact, since Microsoft set up its IP licensing program in December 2003, it has already signed 1100 agreements enabling partners and even competitors access its IP portfolio. So the RIM deal is not that exceptional from a Redmond perspective.
How — and even if — this technology will have any impact at all on RIM’s fortunes is anyone’s guess, but what is certain is that it will take more than a single piece of technology to pull it out of the ditch it seems stuck in.
In fact, the smartphone and tablet market look, to all intents and purposes, pretty much sown-up so it is hard to see what part of the market RIM’s revival is going to take place in. After Android and iOS, Microsoft, HP (if it happens) and RIM will fight it out for what remains, but generally believed to be about 2% of the market, and at the moment RIM isn't looking great.
Yes, this announcement comes just before RIM releases Blackberry 10, but even that release seems badly timed with the new CEO Thorsten Heins looking at a January launch, well after the holiday season window has closed.
However, RIM has far from given up the ghost and over the past few months has streamlined the company and said it is to focus solely on its mobile platforms and smartphones and leave the other add-ons to partners.
Only time will tell whether its new strategy will work, but one thing certain is that RIM under Heins is implementing an aggressive shake-up, and shake-ups always throw up some interesting ideas and strategies, possibly even one that may turn RIM’s fortunes around.