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So What Is Really Happening With BlackBerry?

First Published on Motley Fool (www.fool.com) – OCTOBER 30, 2013

For the past two years or so, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BB  ) has been caught in a cash-burning spiral trying to hold on to anything it can for dear life in the North American market. The Canadian based firm formerly known as Research in Motion, BlackBerry, has been searching for a buyer after dismal execution in delivery of products and services in recent years.

Recently, Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo signed a non-disclosure agreement with BlackBerry, opening the books on the firm for a possible buy. But Lenovo is not the only vulture picking at the beleaguered tech firm. Cisco Systems, Google, and SAP are looking at either acquiring all of BlackBerry or picking it apart piece by piece. BlackBerry patents alone can fetch a high value, but any breakup would leave a large bruise to the Canadian tech industry.

Earlier this month, Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings, Ltd., tendered a $9 per share offer to take BlackBerry private. Then, of course, there are the co-founders Lazaridis and Fregin, who have publicly mentioned their thoughts about making a bid.

The WSJ recently reported that Lenovo is seeking to take the whole company, including hardware and security services side, plus patents. Lenovo sees the acquisition as a possible boost to its own smartphone business.

Down, but not out?
Regardless, BlackBerry seems to not be resting on its laurels just yet. It has made moves to go leaner with recent employee cuts that have been tough internally. Inside sources confirm that BlackBerry is moving to create leaner operations to save cash flow by reshuffling and consolidating all areas of the company.

And, despite the naysayers, BlackBerry continues to muddle through all of this. The company just announced the long-awaited release of the improved Blackberry 10.2 OS, available for download this week. The system features spruced up improved BBM Video and Natural Sound to capture a wider sound spectrum. It also includes instant previews of all BBM, SMS and email from any app so that users can view and respond simultaneously while viewing videos, surfing the web, etc. Other features include keyboard, sharing and calendar enhancements. Meanwhile, Canadian carrier Rogers is prepping to launch the new BlackBerry Z30 before the end of the year.

“We’re working closely with BlackBerry to certify the BlackBerry Z30 on our network and prepare our sales channels. We’re prepping to launch the BlackBerry Z30 device in the coming weeks. We’ve had good interest from our customers on our Rogers reservation system and we’re looking forward to the launch.”

From eminent brand to imminent destruction, or is there a future?
BlackBerry continues to operate as if they think they have one.  As for the outsiders looking in, perhaps Lenovo is just reading the tea leaves in the desktop/laptop market. With the loss of appeal for traditional computing systems and the market shifts toward portable or mobile platforms, Lenovo needs to evolve and could do by absorbing BlackBerry.

Or perhaps the Chinese-based firm simply wants a way in the front door to feast its eyes on the BlackBerry books and their patent collection.  Contributor Gordon Chang at Forbes certainly thinks it will be Armageddon for BlackBerry if Lenovo is involved.  Insert “Chinaphobia” claims here.

BlackBerry, however, still has its patents and reputation for secure OS systems in the corporate landscape. The future may not be so bleak, but it will certainly be a tough climb.  If BlackBerry can circle the wagons and grab a lifeline from the likes of Fairfax or the team of Lazaridus and Fregin, they may be able to continue to muddle through and rebuild, all while avoiding the hungry Chinese and Silicon Valley vultures circling overhead.

Fool contributor Gavin P. Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow Gavin on Twitter @Doctor_G.

Link to article on Motley Fool: http://www.fool.com/features/specials/2013/10/30/so-what-is-really-happening-with-blackberry.aspx

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