Technology

what becomes of Blackberry under Samsung?

It’s difficult to imagine any kind of major revival for the BlackBerry product line, even if Samsung Electronics actually pulls off a deal for the fallen onetime Canadian-based smartphone champ.

Reuters is reporting that Samsung recently approached BlackBerry about just such an acquisition for a price approaching $7.5 billion. According to the report, Samsung has its eye on BlackBerry’s patent portfolio, which would help the South Korea tech giant contend with its biggest rival Apple.

But I don’t see a deal providing any major assurances for the BlackBerry smartphones.

Yes, BlackBerry CEO John Chen has helped refocus the company and that’s a positive. Yes, BlackBerrys still engender fervent loyalty among security-minded corporate types who prefer the kind of physical keyboards that BlackBerrys have long been known for over the all-touch devices that have taken over the last few years — on iPhones, on any number of Android handsets, and on Windows Phones. No need to rehash the gruesome way rivals phones ended up crushing the company once known as Research In Motion.

I actually gave a very favorable review to the throwback BlackBerry Classic device that the company recently released. It has an excellent physical keyboard and is based on the tried-and-true BlackBerry Bold design. The problem is those BlackBerry loyalists and the market for such a device represent no better than a marginal niche constituency.

Meantime, despite far deeper pockets, things haven’t been all that rosy at Samsung either, which has seen steep declines in its own mobile business of late.

There are no assurances a Samsung-BlackBerry union will happen. I don’t doubt that conversations took place, though for the record, Blackberry issued a statement saying it “has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry.”

But lets pretend a deal does come together. Does the BlackBerry brand get thrown out to pasture? Does the brand remain more or less intact as a small division inside Samsung? Does Samsung, which already puts out more mobile devices than you can easily keep track of, add a keyboard-based Galaxy BlackBerry phone to its portfolio?

And what operating system would such a phone run?

I suppose it could be the BlackBerry 10 software employed on today’s latest BlackBerry’s, which it is worth pointing out can can accommodate Android apps. There’s some variation of Android itself. Or perhaps the Tizen software that Samsung is pushing on some mobile devices, and, as of last week’s announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, on all its brand new smart TVs.

In other words, we still have more questions than definitive answers. It will be fascinating to see how it plays out.

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