Apple considered acquiring parts of BlackBerry?

blackberry 10 event header

Although tech titans Apple and Microsoft both sought to buy parts of BlackBerry, the board shied away from breaking up the company, according to a report Friday by Reuters. The ailing smartphone pioneer has determined that selling the company in pieces isn’t in its best interests, despite bids from Apple, Microsoft, Lenovo and others.

I’m not sure the board has necessarily made a wise choice. First and foremost, a full-blown instant comeback is literally impossible this late in the game. And while still profitable, BlackBerry is burning through its cash fast, unit sales are falling off the cliff, users are defecting to other platforms in droves and, worst of all, there are no cool new products on the horizon to be excited about.

And with the iOS-Android duopoly and Microsoft competing for the #3 slot, it’s indeed too late to turn BlackBerry’s fortunes around. Seems to me they should have just sold off parts of the company to become a competitive niche player, as one analyst suggested in August…

Cisco Systems and Google were also interested in buying parts of BlackBerry.

From the Reuters article:

The board rejected proposals from several technology companies for various BlackBerry assets on grounds that a break-up did not serve the interest of all stakeholders, which include employees, customers and suppliers in addition to shareholders, said the sources, who did not want to be identified as the discussions were confidential.

One of the sources said the board also took into consideration the current cost of the break-up. Winding down some of BlackBerry’s businesses would have created liabilities, including in its commitments with suppliers, and would have weighed on the monetization of the company’s intellectual property, the source said.

The report goes on to note that Microsoft and Apple had both expressed interest in BlackBerry’s intellectual property and patents. It’s worth remembering that BlackBerry, Apple and Microsoft in 2011 had teamed up with others to buy patents from bankrupt Canadian telecoms company Nortel.

In addition to BlackBerry’s patents, Apple may have been interested in the company’s secure messaging architecture, enterprise features and device management software. BlackBerry’s patent trove is valued at up to $3 billion and includes new patents that cover recent advances in cellular and communications technologies.

BBM 1.0.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)BBM 1.0.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 005)

If you’ve been keeping tabs on tech news lately, you’re no doubt aware of the scale of BlackBerry’s woes. Over the past two years, the firm wrote off nearly $1 billion in unsold smartphones and let go 4,500 people, one of the largest layoffs ever for a Canadian company.

Worse, the BlackBerry 10 OS and the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone (below) crashed, prompting the company to discount the flagship all-touch shortly following its launch.

And in spite of its BBM messaging app for the iPhone (pictured above) and Android seeing ten million downloads less than 24 hours into the launch, it’s facing an uphill battle against the likes of Viber, WhatsApp, Hangouts and Skype.

BlackBerry Z10 (siide, angled 001)

As BlackBerry’s woes deepen, the consumer electronics leader Apple was circling the waters, picking off some of BlackBerry’s engineers via a recruitment drive near the BlackBerry offices in Ontario, Financial Post reported last month.

While BlackBerry initially agreed to sell itself to Fairfax Financial Holdings for $4.7 billion, it scrapped those plans recently and fired CEO Thorsten Heins, replacing him with former Sybase chief John Chen as interim CEO. Plan B now calls for $1 billion in convertible notes issued to a group of investors, which includes FairFax.

The logic is that such a move would provide a much-needed short-term lifeline as the management plots the long-term course.

Heins was hired as BlackBerry’s boss following the not-so-graceful exit of its then co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie well after the company had begun its downward spiral.

What would you say BlackBerry’s options are at this point?