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The official Motribe blog, written by the founders

July 31

by Nic Haralambous, Motribe CEO

Speculation around the future of BlackBerry manufacturer RIM is rife. And though most of the news of RIM’s demise is coming from the US – a smartphone-saturated market – I believe what’s really going to happen with RIM is not a death, but something more like a double reincarnation.

Adapt or die
We’ve all heard the rumours of BlackBerry’s impending demise, and the massive retrenchments throughout its holding company, RIM. And the reasons why aren’t hard to fathom: its hardware lags and its software barely limps along. Why? Quite simply because it’s refused to adapt and keep up with trends. A case in point is the screen, which is about a quarter of the size of an iPhone’s. Conversely, the moment Samsung saw the first iPhone, it responded rapidly and is now the biggest producer of smartphones in the world. BlackBerry has both the ability and the experience to win the race, but its refusal to adapt has been its downfall. But while it’s true that RIM has seen better days, I don’t think we should start writing eulogies just yet.

My crazy prediction
Although I’ve only seen one article that concurs with my opinion, I think RIM is going to fracture into two parts: hardware and software. I think that two companies might battle it out for what becomes of RIM; Microsoft is going for the software division, and Facebook’s for the hardware side of the business.

Truth is, Microsoft isn’t winning in the emerging markets, and the only way for them to do so is to get market share of the top echelon, which BlackBerry has. So my prediction is that they’re going to buy RIM’s software, get rid of the BlackBerry operating system and implement Windows Phone 7.

As for Facebook, the only way they see themselves competing in emerging markets is through the ownership of their own device – by actually selling their own phones via the mobile operators. And the only way they can do that is if they buy RIM. If they tried to build their own phones, it would be a hopeless exercise as they have neither the knowledge nor the experience to do so. But if they bought BlackBerry, the millions of people worldwide who own BlackBerry devices will simply switch over, and suddenly Facebook will become a serious mobile competitor.

This prediction of mine is usually met with questions relating to the state of my mental health, the general consensus being that Facebook should steer completely clear of any mobile-market acquisitions. Popular belief holds that Facebook is a software company – a website. Except it isn’t just a website. Facebook has almost a billion people on their ‘just one website’, which gives them enormous power to do pretty much whatever they like.

Another reason why people think Facebook should lay off the buying of things right now is because of the poor outcome of their recent IPO. My feeling veers in exactly the opposite direction: it’s precisely because RIM is going cheap right that Facebook should and must buy it. Facebook has just bought Instagram for a billion dollars, and have so far not made a dollar in revenue from that purchase. Unlike Instagram, RIM is a product with real-world integration. Even if Facebook were to buy RIM for five times the amount it spent on Instagram, it would be worth it.

The BIS knees
Another reason why I believe BlackBerry won’t die: BlackBerry Internet Services (BIS). Whoever buys BlackBerry and that part of the business will have to maintain it, and can also use it to win new users. The PR possibilities are staggering…imagine if Microsoft bought RIM and then gave every BlackBerry user extended services around BIS. The emerging markets would love Microsoft for it, and they will have won a valuable piece of the pie that everyone’s after.