RIM partners with lockmaker Assa Abloy on NFC, faces Barclays downgrade

Assa Abloy + RIM BlackBerry

Normally when a smartphone maker enters into a technology partnership, it’s something to do with software or patents or applications or revenue streams like mobile advertising—but RIM just loves to zig when other companies zag. Swedish lock and security company Assa Abloy announced today it is partnering with RIM to integrated keycard technology into future BlackBerry smartphones—and the tech will rely on the same near-field communications (NFC) technology currently being deployed by some phone makers to support mobile wallets. The first phones to carry the technology will be the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 and the BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360, which are due to be launched in early 2012.

The idea is that BlackBerry smartphones would be able to replace standard access cards; users would just wave their phones near an access panel for a building or door to be granted access. The system can also be augmented with PIN requirements, so merely having a valid phone doesn’t have to be enough to manage access. Although the initial focus will be on doors at offices and other access-controlled facilities—Assa Abloy tested the tech in Stockholm hotels beginning in 2010—the technology could easily be extended to the mobile equivalent of time cards as well as homes, garage doors, and even automobiles. And, of course, the NFC tech is also key to mobile payment efforts like Google Wallet. Assa

Assa Abloy’s deal with RIM marks the first time the company has partnered with a mobile technology developer, but according to media reports the deal with RIM isn’t exclusive.

In the meantime, RIM’s precarious position in the smartphone market is enduring another wobble as investment firm Barclays slashed its target price for RIM and downgraded the company’s stock to an equalweight or hold rating. In a note to clients, Barclays analyst Jeff Kvaal cut his price target in RIM stock from $40 to $23, citing an “uneven migration” to the company’s new BBX/QNX operation system and delays rolling out products like the PlayBook 2.0.

“Traditional strengths are fading—enterprises are opening to new platforms, third party IM apps are eating at BlackBerry Messenger, and Android and Nokia are aggressive in the low end,” Kvaal wrote.

Last week, the price of RIM’s stock fell below book value, meaning the market value of the company—as represented by its stock price—was less than the net value of its concrete assets like patents, assets, facilities, and property. Although the price recovered a bit last Friday, as of this morning RIM’s price was again below book value.

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