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WHY didn't Microsoft buy RIM? Us business blokes would have queued for THAT phone

Nothing cuts it if you're a sysadmin

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Sysadmin blog In the wake of Microsoft announcing that it's acquiring Nokia, and BlackBerry announcing that it's buying itself out of the public market with Fairfax’s help, I can’t help but come to a single conclusion: Microsoft has missed what could possibly have been the single greatest acquisition in its company’s history.

As you’ll know if you follow me on Twitter I have an iPhone. This iPhone constitutes the entirety of my mobile office. I do everything on it. I bank; I process payments; I surf the web; I write articles; I write specifications; I crunch numbers, manage spreadsheets and run a business that lately has taken on multiple layers of unexpected complexity.

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice that there’s one thing I haven’t yet said about my iPhone that I maybe would have said 12 months ago. What I haven’t expressed about my iPhone is any love whatsoever.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a great deal of affection and emotional investment in the device that stores and controls most of the things I do on a daily basis. I just don’t love it any more, and I suspect that I’m not alone. So I’ve been looking to see if I can find a replacement phone to use, and possibly love, on a daily basis and I have to say that I am thoroughly disgusted with what I’ve found.

What I’ve found is nothing. Not a single phone out there meets the requirements that I, as a mobile business user, need to get through my day. Looking for a high-end consumer smart phone? Sorted. Looking for an entry-level consumer phone? Sorted.

Most of my list of requirements were reasonably simple and easily fulfilled. It had to have decent specs and build quality; a reliable, updatable OS; decent productivity software; and a decent browser. It wasn’t until I sat down and really thought things through though that I realised I wanted something that could be considered unusual, something that it turns out is apparently impossible to to have given the single device = single user nature of our current software.

Looking for a mid-range, business suitable phone that can run profiles? You’re shit out of luck.

By profiles I don’t mean that I want user accounts, what I mean is that when it’s time to get down to work I want to be able to switch my phone into work mode and have it bring to the fore everything I would normally use while working. I want it to know that I spend most of my day switching between five apps and give me easy access to those apps. I want it to know that while I don’t call a lot of people, I do send a ridiculous amount of email every day from a business account and while I’m doing that, I really couldn’t care about what’s going on in my personal accounts.

What I want is a phone that I can tell I’m working and have it work with me, rather than having to work around it, through it and over it. If you’re still with me you’re probably wondering what in the seven hells this has to do with Microsoft missing the biggest acquisition in the company's history.

Well, here it is.

Microsoft should have bought BlackBerry, the phone maker formerly known as RIM. Forget Nokia. In fact, screw Nokia to the seven hells of Cthulhu and back. Nokia haven’t made a decent smartphone ever. Nokia make really really great feature phones and crappy smartphones that they market as high-end.

You might have guessed that I’m not a fan of Nokia and you’d be right. Microsoft buying Nokia doesn’t make any sense. It’s like me trying to get into the LCD panel business by buying a CRT manufacturer that’s going out of business.

RIM, on the other hand, understood the smartphone sector. It's been getting its ass kicked for the last five years because it misjudged Apple. Then again, the only biz that appears to have not underestimated the iPhone giant is Samsung, so this is one mistake that I’m willing to forgive.

Not only does BlackBerry know smartphones but it still employs some of the smartest people in the room. They also understand how to make a reasonably priced mobe. What they ran out of, though, was runway. By the time BlackBerry realised that it was in serious trouble, the kind of trouble where your company is about to end and you’re going to have to pink-slip everybody, it had no tarmac left. There were no options left other than to take the first offer that was on the table. It was highly unlikely that there was ever going to be another one.

It’s a shame really because this would have been a match made in heaven for Microsoft. As much as the Windows goliath appears to be floundering out of control in the consumer sector, Microsoft gets Enterprise. They understand, the needs of big biz in the smartphone and tablet markets are nowhere even close to being met.

Consumer smartphones are the handheld redheaded stepchild and should be treated with the same level of disdain in a corporate environment. I won’t name names but one popular OS (cough, Android, cough) has got so bad that it now appears to offer MaaS (Malware as a Service) and it seems to have been doing this for some time in various differing guises. Don’t look so smug, Apple fanbois. Your OS’s indifference to actually supporting Exchange email services properly, or even remotely well, is a disgrace and every update brings new ways to make it worse.

What Microsoft could have offered to BlackBerry was a reprieve. Not just a reprieve, though; Redmond could have offered them a shit-tonne of money. This is one situation where throwing billions of dollars at the problem would have actually fixed it.

Why? Not many people actually bought the latest BlackBerry handsets, but those who did reported a user satisfaction level akin to Samsung's Android.

Let that sink in for a moment. A relatively small Canadian company, running out of time, money, and options, produced a phone with an OS that people actually enjoyed as much as the most popular variant of Android and far, far more than Windows Phone 8. It’s incredible that with every single odd stacked against the BlackBurgers, they managed to pull that off.

Now imagine what they could have done had they Microsoft’s Marketing and Money Might™ behind them. Imagine what they could have come up with had Microsoft done what they did with the XBox boys in the beginning and set them up in their own building on campus and let them do whatever they needed to with no interference as long as they built products that were, in BlackBerry's case, aimed at Small Businesses and Enterprise users.

Can you imagine a phone built from the ground up with security in mind, running endpoint protection natively, with deep hooks for remote management built in? Can you imagine a phone smart enough to truly be called a smartphone?

With the awesome might of Microsoft behind them, BlackBerry could have built it.

Sadly, we don’t live in my fantasy world where Microsoft bails out BlackBerry and I end up with a phone that does everything I could ever dream of for productivity. Instead Microsoft is buying Nokia, and it’s a shame really. $4.7bn is an absolute steal for BlackBerry. Heck, I would have queued to buy a reasonably priced BlackBerry by Microsoft. I would have queued all night.

Well … as long as it wasn’t running Windows Phone 8. ®

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