Research In Motion, struggling to keep its BlackBerrys relevant in the smartphone game, could still make an attractive prize for the right acquirer.
RIM is considering hiring a banker to explore its "strategic alternatives" -- often code word for putting itself on the block -- according to a Bloomberg report today.
The move is in line with CEO Thorsten Heins' recent comments during the last quarterly earnings announcement that he would explore all options for the company, something prior leaders were reluctant to do. For shareholders, it may be their only way to get any kind of return on a stock that has plunged over the past year.
Looking at it from a buyer's perspective, there is still some value left -- although some of it is fading. The company has a decent stash of technology patents, which remain a hot commodity in the current litigious environment. Despite falling sales, the company still boasts a strong reputation for its e-mail and security. That reputation also enables it to keep its high-profile government and enterprise customers.
A lot of this, of course, is dependent on which companies may make an offer and for what reason. As CNET previously wrote, many of the companies that had considered making an offer for RIM likely would have regretted the deal.
Conceivably, Amazon, Microsoft, and Nokia would have made a run for the company in the hopes of using RIM to augment its own phone business. That would have been a mistake and likely cripple efforts by all of those companies to build their own smartphone businesses.
While it's far from a guarantee that the Kindle Fire, Windows Phone, or Lumia smartphone lines will achieve long-term success, they're all better off without the mess of the BlackBerry business.
But a buyer looking beyond the ailing BlackBerry line could see a potential gem. Perhaps most importantly is its patent portfolio, which covers all manner of messaging and wireless technology standards. Sanford Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu had previously estimated the portfolio's worth to be between $3 billion and $4 billion. That's not bad for a company with a market capitalization of just under $7 billion.
RIM also gets companies into a lot of high-profile government agencies and enterprises, typically ones that rely on a stricter level of security. Buying RIM means buying those well-established relationships. RIM recently said that it is still seeing an increase in government customers.
Heins has already talked about the number of licensing partnerships that RIM could look into. QNX, for instance, has a broader range of applications beyond smartphones, and could be its own revenue generator for a potential buyer.
So even if RIM's core BlackBerry business presents a serious red flag, there are still a few things going for the company.