With BlackBerry (BBRY) teetering towards what seems like its inevitable end, it’s worth asking — even if we’ve asked it before — who would be interested in buying the beaten-down company … and for what price.
Well, first things first, there’s almost no chance that another technology firm is going to step in and buy the entire company. Sorry, BlackBerry fans. But BBRY’s challenges go far beyond having a company with deep pockets providing the marketing cash needed to push the brand and its products back into the limelight.
The company’s marketshare is below 3%, its share of U.S. smartphone sales in the minuscule 1% range and the crucial third place in mobile OS platform has been ceded to Microsoft (MSFT) … all despite the release of BlackBerry’s new BB10 handsets.
While it may have pioneered the smartphone and just released all new handsets and an operating system to power them, BlackBerry is as good as gone, as far as smartphones are concerned.
The Q10 may well represent the pinnacle of QWERTY keyboard-equipped smartphones, but the physical keyboard is largely a relic of the feature phone era. Even among business users, the physical keyboard has become a niche product … and most consumers don’t want it.
As for BB10, why pay for a new mobile OS with negligible marketshare and have to assume the cost of maintaining and developing it when Google (GOOG) will give you Android — by far the most popular mobile operating system — for free?
Still, there are components of BlackBerry that could prove valuable to the right buyer — particularly its presence in the enterprise space and its secure network. BlackBerry Enterprise Server now supports iOS and Android, making it more attractive to businesses that need to support iPhones and Galaxies as part of the BYOD movement.
With that in mind, companies looking to expand their enterprise services business — such as IBM (IBM), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) or even Dell (DELL) — might be interested in picking up this part of BlackBerry in an attempt to grab the customers, even if they ultimately ditch their BlackBerry installation. Bloomberg says IBM reportedly made a pitch for this business in 2012.
On its own, there’s speculation BlackBerry’s enterprise software and secure network might fetch $1 billion apiece.
There is also BlackBerry’s patent portfolio — always a valuable asset in these days of technology litigation. The company holds patents covering a range of wireless and mobile technologies (including some it acquired from bankrupt Nortel, BBRY’s predecessor as Canada’s biggest technology company).
Depending on how they’re valued (and bidding on technology patents is always a bit of a crapshoot) analysts estimate they could be worth anywhere from $2 billion to $ 5 billion. MIT Technology Review recently suggested that BlackBerry’s encryption patents could well prove to be its most valuable asset.