Samsung seen as player in RIM's future - again

Purchase or license deal for BlackBerry 10 seen, Jefferies analyst says

Samsung is considering buying Research in Motion or licensing RIM's BlackBerry 10 operating system, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek wrote in a note to investors this week.

"Among other options, we believe Samsung is considering ramping up its internal OS development efforts, licensing BB10 or buying RIM," Misek wrote. "We think any acquisition is unlikely until after BB10 launches." That launch is set for January 2013.

Misek's comment sparked news reports and comments from other analysts, including some who don't think Samsung will benefit much from a RIM acquisition.

"I think a Samsung acquisition of RIM is unlikely because the restructuring would be more complicated than Samsung's just sticking with what they have and pulling business away from RIM," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner who has followed RIM for decades.

"The answer is still no. This is about the 1 millionth time this Samsung buying RIM rumor has gone round," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

Gold said Samsung is already well into making the Android OS for smartphones and tablets work securely for enterprise customers, so it would have little to gain from the enterprise qualities of RIM software and BlackBerry 10.

"It would not ultimately be a successful merger," Gold added.

Asked about the Jefferies comment, a RIM spokeswoman said the company would not respond to rumors or speculation. A Samsung spokeswoman said, "Samsung is going to politely decline to comment."

Regarding licensing of BB10 by Samsung, Gold said Samsung wouldn't gain much from that either. "BlackBerry still sells a lot of phones in other markets besides the U.S., but compared to what Samsung sells in Android, it's a small number," he said.

RIM licensed its BlackBerry Connect product years ago, "but it never took off for several reasons," Gold added.

Dulaney reasoned that BB10 "could be of some use to Samsung" but only subject to several factors. One big factor would be if Samsung abandoned Android, due to fears it might lose out to Motorola's Android, now that Motorola is part of Google.

"RIM is still the fourth ecosystem -- behind Apple, Google and Microsoft -- so getting the RIM platform to be viable takes more than just producing devices," Dulaney said.

RIM might reveal more of its plans with Samsung or licensing BlackBerry 10 at its next earnings call on Sept. 27, Misek said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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