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Can Windows Phone 8 save RIM?

After Research in Motion’s disastrous earnings report yesterday — with a loss of 37 cents a share, an additional BlackBerry 10 delay to 2013, and the reveal that it would cut 5,000 jobs — it’s no surprise that shareholders are desperate for a fix.

RIM’s investors are apparently pushing the company’s board for extreme options like forming an alliance with Microsoft, or selling its network technology to another tech firm or private equity firm, reports Reuters. The board, meanwhile, seems adamant on sticking with its BlackBerry 10 strategy. (Remember that RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie was pushed out of the company for hawking similarly radical ideas.)

New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins reiterated yesterday that he’s not interested in switching to any alternative OS, be it Windows Phone or Android, Forbes reports. Although I can’t imagine he’ll be as stubborn if RIM’s performance doesn’t improve.


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Personally, I’m intrigued by the idea that Microsoft could form an agreement with RIM similar to the one it has with Nokia.

That partnership led to the sexy Lumia Windows Phones, and it also let Nokia forget about wasting time on MeeGo, it’s previous next-generation OS. While Microsoft is still being quiet about overall Windows Phone sales, we’ve been hearing that Lumia sales are leading the platform. Unfortunately, those Lumia devices were quickly made obsolete with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 announcement, but you can bet Nokia is working on even better devices for that new platform.

While it may be tough to swallow a RIM and Microsoft partnership, it makes a lot of sense for RIM’s core enterprise market. Microsoft has been hammering Windows Phone 8’s enterprise features, and given its integration with corporate Exchange servers and Windows PCs, it would be a comfy fit for RIM. And it would allow RIM to spend more time developing killer BlackBerry hardware instead of struggling to modernize the BlackBerry OS.

Such a deal would also make sense for Microsoft, which recently poured $300 million into Barnes & Noble to spin off its Nook business. Microsoft seems to enjoy collecting partnerships with former titans on the cheap. And for these companies, Microsoft is often the last option before bankruptcy or being acquired by another firm.

At this point, I can’t see RIM succeeding with its BlackBerry 10 plan. By the time that OS hits the market, we’ll have the iPhone 6 and even better Android devices. And by 2013, Windows Phone could actually be a decent mobile contender.

The other option shareholders are pushing — that RIM sell off its network business — doesn’t seem too hopeful. Selling the network business may allow RIM to prolong its existence, but that won’t stop the core innovation problems.

Photo via Sippanont Samchai/Flickr

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