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While there is fire on the horizon and the only motion that Research In Motion seems to be heading is down, Microsoft should acquire the once storied producers of the Blackberry mobile phone. This won’t be a long drawn out vent as thoughts on subjects like this tend to be. I will get right to the question of,”Why should Ballmer and Co. snatch the Ontario, Canada based company from the flames?”
I have not written an article on it yet, nor have I seen or heard about one, but Microsoft is essentially dead. It just does not know it. Like a towering monster that has just been dealt the final blows of defeat, the company is stumbling across the landscape, wreaking havoc and causing damage to everything in its path as it tumbles and staggers unknowingly towards its demise.
While the company is making strategic alliances and partnerships with automotive and mobile phone companies (Ford and Nokia) and announcements about “potential” next generation Windows installations (500 million), the world is quietly not paying attention. Of course tech websites and business news outlets are, but not people. Real people. Not some writer paid to opine on their behalf or beholden to advertising revenue.
Now if both Dell and HP are tumbling down the hill, how far behind is Microsoft? Not as a stock ticker but in reach. Because last I checked Dell and HP primarily sold Microsoft PC’s. Everybody I know wants a Mac and if they don’t want a Mac they are open source fanatics vaunting about the beauty of unity and spirit of the latest Ubuntu release and looking to make a convert. I won’t even mention Google.
Since I am covering mobility and Research In Motion, let’s talk phones, tablets and such. How many people did you know were waiting for that Nokia Windows phone? How many do you know who actually has one? How about that Blackberry Playbook? It looked nice…on TV. Seeing it in person and saying it was okay looking would be a stretch. And the record shows the Blackberry Playbooks performance was even poorer than appearance.
With all the negatives where is the mutual benefit?
Despite the many flounders (the Microsoft Zune being a recent thought) coming from Redmond, Microsoft has great talent and does produce (and acquire) wonderful technologies (Microsoft Kinect for instance) and despite a constant string of fuck ups from a developers perspective (Explorer or Silverlight anyone?), the user experience with their products is generally acceptable outside of the tech, geek, advanced user circle jerk.
Research In Motion on the other hand suffers massively from having possible the most piss poor user experience you can muster from any device claiming to be smart or having a touch interface. Their brand name however despite a few recent years of falter is strong as a horse kick. This is why RIM has been able to salvage the scraps from each recent year’s failures and muster up enough financial strength annually to fight the next fiscal year. The people trust the brand. Well, at least they did.
After ignorantly denying the fact that touchscreen phones were the next big thing, (despite any tactile functionality reports), then entering the party unconsciously late and with underperforming devices, things began to change for the Blackberry device makers. The Blackberry Playbook was their last big announcement and that did not convert well. The $400m plus hole in the pocket, the reduced revenue, reduced operating income, and reduced net income are no longer pestering smolders. They are fires.
This is where the two companies can meet. Is this unfathomable and overly simple? Possibly. But, with RIM benefiting from Microsoft developing a strong front end for Blackberry devices and Microsoft taking advantage of the Blackberry brand and giving it the exposure and integrated connectivity that RIM could not have done alone, the two companies can craft devices able to compete in a world of multiple choices that is slowly, but steadily transforming into a world of two. Apple or Google.
With all the people in the known Universe clamoring for an iPhone, Mac or Android and with pc manufacturers reporting massive losses and HP stripping jobs off faster than a Brazilian wax job, you wonder how Microsoft stays calm. Business licensing is the answer and in massive volumes. The RIM acquisition would only serve to strengthen this, since the go to phone for businesses despite the uptick in iOS devices, is the Blackberry.
Integrating phone and tablet use potentially boost revenue stream and simultaneously expand their reach and incorporate more people into the Microsoft ecosystem. Sell or lease the hardware alone, selling or leasing hardware and software combinations, whatever the beneficial mix is, the options and potential is there.
Not only could this stabilize business licensing, but it could add a new dimension and expand it. As with the pairing of office and mobile systems into one seamless fully-integrated environment, users by and large would not leave the ecosystem when they were “off work”. In fact, the business devices may prompt or even encourage sales of more devices for family members or for personal use.
Lastly, there is the potential for deep Office integration. By office however, I do not only mean the Microsoft product suite of applications but also the hordes of business users who continuously depend upon their Blackberry devices daily. Getting a seamless system in their hands would produce deep appreciation and if handled properly, could only serve to strengthen the brands of both companies.
Both one of the strong points of a Blackberry was its business use and its failure as a Microsoft Office device. With the companies paired together and under one roof, you could finally have the Office Suite of applications the way they really need to be, without any special ports or modifications. One click upgrades, synchronized inboxes, fully functional spreadsheets and more with an interface that keeps the experience consistent across multiple devices.
Doing this can bring increased use and more importantly dependency for these not-for-free applications from Microsoft. It also pushes the company deeper into and wider across the mobile environment and potentially can save Office from totally succumbing to the totally free and quite capable business and productivity alternatives that are currently available. The convenience, effectiveness and potential security of the seamless system paired with both the Microsoft and Blackberry brands is something certain businesses would be pleased to have.
Probably not. Could it happen? Sure. There are several reasons this could work fantastically, however these three are sufficient. Ballmer and Team Microsoft could acquire Research In Motion or join them at the hip and conspicuously produce an effort similar to the Nokia 900. A smartphone with a user experience everyone seems to say is phenomenal, but not buying. At least not at 20,000 units hourly like Samsung.
Alternatively Microsoft and Blackberry could produce devices that would revitalize each brand and keep both companies off of the chopping block for quite a long time.