October 31, 2013

Is Facebook considering a purchase of BlackBerry?

In many ways, BlackBerry Limited (formerly known as Research In Motion Limited) is a modern-day example of the old biblical saying, "How the mighty have fallen!" Once responsible for mobile devices that were so popular and so addictive that there were referred to as "CrackBerries," the company has since lost the vast majority of its market share to Apple's iPhone and Google's Android mobile devices.

It's hardly a surprise.

At a time when most customers were content with a simple flip phone with few features, BlackBerries once stood out as devices that you could use to check your email while on the go and respond with a full QWERTY keyboard. However, more recent models like the BlackBerry Z10 have instead played catch-up, only recently adding features that competing smartphones have had for years.

So what might the future bring for this shriveling fruit? Recent reports suggest something surprising—some might say unthinkable. What if Facebook bought BlackBerry?

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, BlackBerry executives recently flew out to California to meet with Facebook executives. Though the report was unclear about whether Facebook might actually put in a bid for BlackBerry (which has been seeking bids for the past several months) it certainly fueled speculation that Facebook is seriously interested in entering the smartphone business.

Currently, Facebook's smartphone presence has been relegated to its apps on popular smartphones. But the company has, from time to time, indicated a willingness to expand in that market. Back in April, for example, the company introduced Facebook Home on Android devices, which made it much easier for users to access the app simply by turning on their phone.

Facebook is already one of the most popular websites on the planet. Could it leverage that popularity into its own smartphone brand, and become independent from those smartphone companies who ultimately control access to the social network? The Wall Street Journal article suggests that while resurrecting BlackBerry would not be easy, Facebook could theoretically benefit from the $2.6 billion cash on hand (and no debt) that the company still enjoys. In addition, BlackBerry has a number of patents that could prove highly useful in the future of smartphone development.

Of course, if Facebook really is interested in BlackBerry, it will have to move fast. Other companies have reportedly shown an interest in a technology acquisition, like Chinese computer maker Lenovo. Even after its heyday appears long over, it seems that BlackBerry has something to offer after all.