At this week's BlackBerry World trade show, everyone expected the top headliner to be the company's just-released PlayBook tablet and its new software offerings. As it turned out, the gadget ended up taking second spot to a surprise guest: Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer.
Ballmer came out during RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis' keynote yesterday morning to announce a partnership that would bring Microsoft's Bing search engine to BlackBerries. Search is a big deal in mobile devices, so it's fitting that a heavy hitter from Microsoft came to give its blessing, but many took the appearance of the CEO as a clear sign of bigger things to come.
Does RIM know what it's in for, though? There's considerable doubt over whether the company's strategy and platforms can be successful over the next couple of years. If they're not, Microsoft could end up owning RIM.
"Will Microsoft buy RIM? That is a possibility and a fast track for Microsoft to gain a foothold in the mobile hardware business," says Harry Wang, director of mobile research at Parks Associates. "RIM's market capitalization is only $25 billion and Microsoft has $48 billion in cash. If RIM's value drops to $15 billion, it will become an attractive target for Microsoft. Maybe Steve Ballmer was planting that seed during his keynote appearance at Blackberry World."
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