January 25, 2013
Lenovo Ponders RIM Acquisition
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Just days after RIM's CEO Thorsten Heins spoke about the possibility of RIM selling its hardware unit, the company may already have a prospective buyer. Lenovo, the Chinese computer manufacturer that made a name for itself by acquiring IBM's computer business, has said it is considering RIM as a possible acquisition.
Lenovo CFO Wong Mai Ming spoke about the possibility during an interview at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the Washington Post reported. "We are looking at all opportunities -- RIM and many others. We'll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders."
There is still time for Lenovo to kick the tires on RIM's hardware business. RIM said no decision would be made until after the January 30 launch of its highly anticipated BlackBerry 10 operating system. Depending on how the launch carries out, RIM could decide to sell its hardware business and concentrate on its software platform. The company would then license its software -- the newly-released BlackBerry 10 -- to hardware companies to run on their handsets. Lenovo would be among the handset manufacturers producing handsets that could potentially license the BlackBerry OS. Other manufacturers of handsets that might license the BlackBerry platform include Samsung and HTC, among others. Nokia might also be a licensee candidate, if it diversifies beyond its own Symbian OS and Windows 7 Phone.
If Lenovo buys RIM's hardware business, it could continue to make handsets for the BlackBerry OS, but would likely be free to manufacture handsets for other OS platforms, including Android and Windows Phone.
The move to bolster its mobile presence is smart for Lenovo. The market for smartphones and tablets has grown rapidly in the past year or two, while PC and laptop sales have seen declines. "Long term, we are in a declining PC market," said Jean- Louis Lafayeedney, an analyst at JI Asia in Hong Kong, in the Washington Post article. The analyst believes Lenovo "can leverage the scale they have in PCs to develop the mobile internet side of the business."
Lenovo bought IBM's personal computer business in 2005. The company has continued the ThinkPad name while it plays among the top laptop and notebook manufacturers in terms of shipments. A report released by the Gartner Group in October showed Lenovo was the top PC manufacturer, in terms of shipments worldwide. Lenovo shipped 13.8 million PCs in Q3 2012. HP had previously held the top position in terms of worldwide shipments of PCs.
In the interview, Lenovo said it was considering several options. Lenovo hasn't said whether the hardware business from RIM will be enough, or whether it would also want the BlackBerry 10 operating system. Most other smartphone manufacturers produce handsets for licensed operating systems such as Android and Windows Phone. Nokia is phasing out its own Symbian and currently produces handsets for Windows Phone. Nokia's recent earnings show Lumia, the line that runs Windows Phone, has not done well in the US, and the phone has fared even worse in China.