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RIM 'pondering sell-off of hardware biz' to focus on messaging

Sunday Times what-if session spills onto the paper

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Troubled BlackBerry maker RIM could be getting out of the hardware business, with the Sunday Times reporting a plan to cut RIM in two and flog off the hardware division to focus on messaging and device management.

The Sunday Times doesn't list any sources for its conjecture, but confidentially claims the plan is being considered with Amazon and Facebook being listed as potential buyers of the hardware business while RIM would hang on to the crown jewels in the form of BlackBerry Messenger and the cross-platform device management suite BlackBerry Fusion.

It's an interesting idea, and one which will certainly have crossed the minds of JP Morgan and RBC Capital who were appointed last month to take a careful look at RIM with a view to refining the business plan.

That plan needs reviewing, as currently the company is betting that its new operating system, BlackBerry 10, will revive interest in the platform, while promising that BlackBerry Fusion will make Android and iOS devices just as easy to manage centrally - reducing the need for companies to have BlackBerry devices at all.

The idea that Amazon and/or Facebook will be chomping at the bit to snap up BlackBerry's handset division is a little fanciful. Amazon is doing fine with its Kindle, a media-consumption device which couldn't be further from RIM's platform. Facebook similarly has little to gain from a BlackBerry acquisition, though it could certainly afford it. But there are plenty of Asian manufacturers who'd happily take a punt developing a Facebook phone without Zuckerberg having to risk a dime.

The only part of RIM which might interest Zuck et al would be BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), the closed chat system which has proved so popular amongst youth thanks to its low cost (compared to SMS) and security, but even the Sunday Times isn't suggesting that's on the table.

RIM told us that the banks it's hired have been asked to "examine ways to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships, licensing opportunities and strategic business modal alternatives", so while all options are up for discussion the preferred plan remains to get the company making a profit.

So basically anything could happen to RIM as it searches for a way out of its current doldrums: being cloven in twain is just one of the possible results. ®

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