The UK’s The Sunday Times reports that Blackberry maker Research in Motion is considering splitting in two, keeping its private messaging network but splitting off its handset division into a separate business — or perhaps selling it outright. The report does not cite sources.
RIM has been watching both its smartphone marketshare and revenues plummet as Android and Apple’s iOS dominate the smartphone market. The company is currently working furiously to release BlackBerry 10, a major revamp of its mobile operating system, as well as refresh its increasingly-stale device lineup. However, the company has seen a number of high-profile executive resignations and departures in recent months, and just last week the company began another round of layoffs — some 2,000 positions to be eliminated in the near term with as many as 6,000 potentially on the chopping block as the company tries to trim $1 billion off its operating expenses by 2013. At the beginning of the month, the company was estimated to have about 16,000 employees worldwide.
Last month, the company hired JP Morgan and RBC Capital to assist with an examination of its strategic options.
If RIM were to sell off its handset division to another company, The Sunday Times counts the likes of Amazon and Facebook as potential suitors. Amazon has already launched its own line of mobile products with the Kindle and Kindle Fire, and is known to have been a contender to acquire Palm before HP clinched the deal. Facebook has been reportedly working on its own “Facebook phone” for years, and now that the company is public it’s under increasing pressure to improve its mobile presence as consumers (and a growing portion of its user base) shift from traditional computers to interacting with their social networks from smartphones and tablet devices. According to the paper, other options include selling an equity stake to another company (such as Microsoft) and/or opening up its private messaging network to traffic from iOS or Android devices.