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BlackBerry binned JV plan to become China's official mobile OS: report

Managers pondered deal for two years without reaching a decision

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Struggling BlackBerry launched a bold bid back in 2010 to corner the Chinese smartphone market through a joint venture, but despite significant interest from Beijing internal feuding in the company ended up scuppering a deal, it is claimed.

In summer 2010, Research In Motion chairwoman Barbara Stymiest and then co-CEO Jim Balsillie took their plan to the state-run China Investment Corp (CIC), according to a report in Canada’s Globe and Mail referencing “people familiar with the discussions”.

A new firm – formed by RIM, CIC and other unnamed domestic handset players – would have sold new handsets licensed to run on RIM’s “core software”, the report claimed.

The deal would apparently have rubber stamped RIM as the official supplier of smartphone operating systems in the world’s biggest market for devices, but despite Balsillie’s enthusiasm and strong interest from Beijing, nothing came of it.

Co-CEO Mike Laziridis and other directors were apparently concerned that a possible China deal would distract the firm from the launch of its BlackBerry 10 device.

The plan is said to have been discussed internally at RIM for two years before it was finally binned after new CEO Thorsten Heins took the reins.

Ironically the launch of the firm’s iPhone-killer, the BlackBerry 10, is now widely regarded as one of the most disastrous in smartphone history.

BlackBerry's second quarter earnings a fortnight ago put expected quarterly revenues at $1.6bn, less than half the $3.06bn analysts were expecting thanks in part to the poorly performing handset.

The firm has now agreed to be taken private by a consortium led by Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings in a deal worth around $4.7bn – a huge drop from the $70bn+ it was once valued at.

Meanwhile, in China domestic handset makers vie with Apple and Samsung for a larger slice of a smartphone market dominated by Google Android. ®

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