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Amazon looked at buying RIM (though that was back in the summer)

research-in-motionOnline retail giant Amazon looked at the viability of buying BlackBerry maker Research In Motion over the summer, though the company did not make a formal offer.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that “people with knowledge of the situation” said that Amazon took on the services of an investment bank to look at the possibility of a merger with the Ontario-based company, though there was no information as to whether executives from the two companies ever went as far as taking seats around the same table to talk details.

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The two companies declined to make any official comment about Amazon’s interest in RIM, though sources told Reuters that the RIM board currently wishes for co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to concentrate on sorting out their troubled business by themselves “through the launch of new phones, better use of assets such as BlackBerry Messaging and restructuring.”

It was suggested by the sources that a complete takeover of the company by another was currently not a possibility, though technology licensing deals and commercial partnerships beneficial to RIM was something that could happen in the future.

Indeed, according to the Reuters report, the two companies are currently talking about how they might expand commercial ties. Also, there has been talk recently of Amazon introducing a smartphone. RIM could certainly lend its knowledge to Amazon for such a device as part of a deal between the two companies.

Many may be perplexed as to why Amazon was interested in buying RIM. Thanks to a series of problems, RIM’s market value has plummeted over the last year by some 77 percent. Weak quarterly reports, poor sales of its PlayBook tablet, a lengthy service outage affecting millions of BlackBerry users in October, and delays to the launch of the BlackBerry 10 operating system (which it’s hoped will reverse the fortunes of the company) have all taken their toll on RIM’s image.

But remember that apparently the talks took place over the summer, before RIM’s problems really began to snowball. However, that snowball is now as large as the company’s stockpile of unsold PlayBooks, so even if RIM did turn around now and say “OK, let’s merge,” Amazon might well emit a nervous cough before quietly leaving the room.

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Lenovo may buy BlackBerry

Lenovo is considering making a deal with Research in Motion, in the shape of an acquisition or a long-term partnership, according to Wong Wai Ming, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer. The news comes from a Bloomberg interview with Wong, where he admitted there had already been conversations between Lenovo and RIM’s financial advisors; however no decisions had been made on either side.
The fact discussions haven’t progressed past an early stage isn’t a surprise: Research in Motion has BlackBerry 10 less than a week away from launch, and it’s attracting plenty of positive attention. However, RIM’s CEO Thorsten Heins remains realistic about the effect BlackBerry 10 could have on the company’s fortunes, saying recently he’s still open to forming strategic partnerships through licensing the software, or an outright sale of RIM’s hardware division if things don’t go according to plan.
As for Lenovo, Wong said it’s, “Looking at all opportunities - RIM and many others,” before adding, “We’ll have no hesitation if the right opportunity comes along that could benefit us and shareholders.” Lenovo isn’t afraid of making big, bold purchases either, having snapped up IBM’s PC division for a total of $1.75 billion in 2004, and it has a team dedicated to exploring potential acquisition opportunities.
Lenovo’s smartphone future
Bloomberg notes Lenovo may not have an easy time if it does decide to make a bid for RIM in the future, not only because of security concerns similar to those held against Huawei and ZTE, but also because the Canadian government will review any potential takeover of this size; and it has already stated it would prefer RIM to grow without external interference.
Lenovo is keen to expand its smartphone business. At the moment, Lenovo holds second position in the Chinese smartphone market, with Samsung in first place. In December last year, CEO Yang Yuanqing said the next stage for the company was to head out into other emerging markets before tackling the established markets in the U.S. and Europe. At CES 2013 Lenovo announced the K900, a 6.9mm thick tablet/smartphone hybrid with a 5.5-inch, 1080p touchscreen, a 2GHz Intel Atom processor and a 13-megapixel camera. With hardware like this in its range, smartphone fans would likely welcome Lenovo with open arms.
Movement on a deal with RIM isn’t expected to come soon though, as the company will want to see how BlackBerry 10 is received before making any decisions. An analyst from MKM Partners told Bloomberg if RIM decides to get out of the hardware game, it won’t be for, “Several quarters,” yet. Research in Motion will debut its BlackBerry 10 phones and software on January 30.

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Final port-a-thon before BB10 launch sees another 19,000 new BlackBerry apps submitted
final port a thon before bb10 launch sees another 1000 new blackberry apps submitted

Buoyed by the success of its app-based port-a-thon event last week which saw over 15,000 apps submitted to the BlackBerry World store in less than 38 hours, Research In Motion put on another one last weekend, calling it the Last Chance Port-A-Thon.
According to a tweet from the mobile maker, this one was even more successful than the first, with a shade over 19,000 apps ported by Android and BlackBerry developers to the soon-to-launch BlackBerry 10 platform in the space of just 36 hours.
Speaking to Fierce Wireless at CES earlier this month, RIM’s chief marketing officer Frank Boulben said the new BB10 platform, set to be unveiled on January 30, will launch with around 70,000 apps. But that was before these two port-a-thons had taken place, so it appears there’ll be even more offerings to owners of new BB10 devices when they hit the market some time in February.
The Last Chance Port-A-Thon was a virtual event, allowing developers to work from anywhere in the world. RIM had experts on hand to help with any questions or difficulties encountered during the 36-hour event.
Going by the huge number of apps submitted, it appears the incentives offered by RIM did the trick in motivating developers. The Canadian mobile maker said it’ll pay $100 to every approved app, up to a maximum of 20 apps per developer.
While you might think RIM is setting itself up for a hefty payout of up to $3.4 million (assuming all the submitted apps from both port-a-thon events are accepted and that no developer submitted in excess of 20 – an unlikely scenario, granted), the Ontario-based company says in the small print that “a total of $500,000 is available for distribution.”
Other incentives included entry into a draw for those who submitted five or more apps, with a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device offered as the prize (250 up for grabs).
In preparation for the launch of its new platform next week, RIM announced yesterday it was losing the word “app” from the name of its online store, which is now called BlackBerry World. RIM said the new name reflects a change in the kind of items you’ll soon be able to purchase from the store – videos and music will soon be offered, too, alongside the current library of apps.
UPDATE: RIM announced Monday it has decided to extend the deadline for its port-a-thon program, saying in a blog post that "the response and interaction from developers has been nothing short of amazing." Details here.
 [Image: BlackBerry Dev blog]

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10 reasons why BlackBerry 10 just might save RIM from oblivion
BB10 blackberry 10

We’ve been waiting a long time for BlackBerry 10 and it’s widely perceived as the last roll of the dice for RIM. The BlackBerry brand has fallen behind the competition as iOS and Android have carved up the smartphone market between them. When we last pointed out that BlackBerry wasn’t dead yet, in the summer, the share price was languishing below $8 and it has been steadily climbing since then, almost hitting $15 as the new platform comes into sight on the horizon.
Thorsten Heins replaced co-CEOs Balsillie and Lazaridis almost exactly a year ago and he decided that the new platform would not be rushed. Despite the pressure on the company, he recognized that another poor update would make things worse. At BlackBerry World last May he said “I want this BlackBerry 10 to be perfect.”
It’s worth remembering that RIM has actually been adding subscribers in the last few months. Market share has dwindled, but the smartphone market has been growing fast enough to mask that. It was only last quarter that RIM lost subscribers for the first time, down from 80 to 79 million. The company has laid off thousands, restructured, and amassed a $2.9 billion war chest to launch the new platform. There can be no doubt that BlackBerry 10 has to succeed if RIM’s future is to be healthy, but we’ve heard enough doomsaying. Here are a few reasons why BB 10 might just surprise everyone and put RIM back in the game.
Securing the enterprise
For Fortune 500 companies and government agencies across the world BlackBerry has always been the platform of choice. RIM forgot its base with BlackBerry 7 as ill-advised and rushed attempts to court the mass market damaged the brand. The company will not make the same mistake again. The BlackBerry platform still has a solid reputation in the business world for a high level of security and reliability. BlackBerry Enterprise Server, BES, is a powerful tool for IT departments. 
RIM just reported that 1,600 companies have already signed up for BlackBerry 10 training. Prospects for BB 10 in the enterprise are bright and its biggest rivals, Android and iOS, are consumer-focused first, with businesses clocking a distant second. Windows Phone 8 could be BB 10’s only real competition in this space.
Dividing work and play
Thinking about the enterprise goes beyond secure email and enterprise apps. RIM has also included a separation between Personal and Work modes so users can switch between them at a touch. Personal mode allows you to install whatever apps or games you want and deal with personal email in an encrypted partition. Work mode is a separate partition that can be locked down by your employer. It’s a clever solution to the company subsidized smartphone and the BYOD trend. Your employer can exert some control over the Work side of your device while your Personal partition is beyond their control.
Standing out from the crowd
We’ve seen plenty of predictions about Microsoft finally hitting its stride in mobile with Windows Phone 8 and one reason you’ll see frequently being cited is that it’s different from the present incumbents, Android and iOS. That’s one of the best things about BlackBerry 10 – it’s a genuine alternative, not a weak copy. It will look familiar to Android, iOS, or WP8 users, but feel very different to use. The integration of gestures, the speed, the active frames, the general flow between apps and services; it all appears to be well-thought out and intuitive to use. It’s also important to note that BB 10 isn't missing any major feature that’s standard on Android or iOS. 
If people are bored or frustrated by Android or iOS then BB 10 could easily catch their attention as a viable alternative.
Attracting developers
RIM understands the importance of attracting developers to the platform and establishing a decent pool of apps for new BB 10 customers. There’s no way the platform is going to catch up with iOS and Android at the 700,000 plus mark, but who needs 700,000 apps? As long as the big apps are all present and correct and there’s a decent choice in BlackBerry App World customers will be happy.

At the weekend RIM was able to attract 15,000 app submissions by offering $100 for every ported app which is accepted and offered for sale in the BB 10 app store. Other incentives include the chance to win BB 10 development handsets and trips to developer conferences. RIM also set aside $10 million to offer developers with apps that exceed 100 downloads and earn at least $1,000 a guaranteed top up to $10,000. The aim is to launch with 70,000 apps and that would be unprecedented for a new platform.
A loyal fan base
Can RIM persuade the 79 million subscribers it has right now to upgrade to BB 10? Even a percentage of those customers upgrading would give the new platform a great start. Then you have to consider all the BlackBerry fans who switched to iOS and Android in the last few years. Some of them won’t be coming back, but not everyone is enamored with the market leaders. The BlackBerry name still has a lot of goodwill and if RIM can present a decent proposition with BB 10, it will tempt some customers back.
The Hub: a universal inbox
Forget about dipping in and out of multiple apps. The BlackBerry Hub is a truly universal inbox. It can suck in multiple email accounts, call history, BBM, text messages, popular third-party apps like Whats App, as well as social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. With built-in calendar functions, this is your one-stop shop for new information and it could be a real time-saver. If you fear information overload don’t worry because it’s easy to filter for the accounts you want to check.
Part of the reason that BB 10 flows so well is the focus on multitasking. Dropping in and out of apps to deal with notifications is a pain point for smartphone users. With BB 10, you can swipe to take a peek at your inbox without leaving the current app. If you swipe left to right you’ll see the other apps that are running in the background and you can switch quickly. Even the home screen focuses on recently used apps and you can have up to nine applications active simultaneously.
That trademark physical keyboard
There’s no doubt that touchscreens are here to stay, but some people will always prefer a physical keyboard on their smartphone and RIM make the best in the business. The quality and feel of the BlackBerry keyboard is unmatched and that will attract a niche audience to choose BB 10. The platform is said to launch with a full touchscreen phone and another touch phone with a QWERTY.
It’s also worth pointing out that RIM has worked on the touchscreen keyboard in BB 10 so it is well-spaced, accurate, offers decent predictive text, and even simultaneous multi-language support. It's already one of our favorite touch keyboards.
BlackBerry Messenger was once a killer feature for the platform and it could be set to take center stage in BB 10. The real-time chat client is going to expand on instant messaging to include voice calls over Wi-Fi. RIM has also worked on BBM Connected which is about integrating other apps like Facebook. If the rumored video chat and screen sharing functionality is thrown into the mix then BBM could be a killer feature again.
Embracing the new
There are a couple of features that signal RIM’s willingness to embrace new trends. The most notable is perhaps the camera app and something the company is calling “Timeshift.” When you take a photo you can rewind or fast forward via a dial to pick the best facial expression and a slider lets you pick the best pose to create a composite image that’s just the one you want. If it works well then it could be a great feature.

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