In a wide-ranging discussion with the press at BlackBerry World, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins addressed our question about his strategy for licensing BlackBerry 10. There are two major opportunities for RIM to license BB10: smartphones and "mobile computing" and in both cases, Heins confirmed that RIM is actively investigating its options.
Specifically with regards to smartphones, Heins said that he first would need to "prove BlackBerry 10" with his teams, then engage in other discussions to license it — specifically responding that he wouldn't comment yet on whether he would share it with competitors like Samsung. RIM is investigating its options internally and "with some advice from the outside."
"The very first step that I have to do with my teams is prove BlackBerry 10."
However, Heins also made some intriguing comments about his philosophy and strategy behind licensing BB10 to other handset makers. "Most of" RIM's investigations are "centered around the segmentation of BlackBerry," Heins said, with the central question being "How will we position BlackBerry 10 in those different segments?" He continued:
Blackberry 10 is a high-end performing mobile computing platform. There's certain elements in such a platform that define your cost position. We need to work on this and it goes back to the question that we had before, where is the right entry point for licensing partnerships?
This may imply that RIM not only intends to license BlackBerry 10, but that it is hoping to license other handset manufacturers to create the lower-end BB10 devices, leaving RIM to directly create and sell more profitable top-tier devices. The strategy would make sense, as RIM is probably more likely to gain licensing deals from the likes of ZTE and Huawei than it is HTC and Samsung.
"The first focus is on mobile computing"Heins has restructured RIM into three major divisions: smartphones, mobile computing, and enterprise services. Mobile computing consists of RIM's tablets, but also other, less well-known verticals. Heins noted that the first step will be to license in the more general "mobile computing" space where the company already licenses QNX. "You can't do everything yourself," Heins said, noting that areas like smart grids, medical, and automotive represent areas where RIM would benefit by licensing BB10 instead of trying to build its own end-to-end solutions.
Yesterday, RIM's EVP of Mobile Computing, David Smith, pointed out to us that RIM is already licensing QNX in this space. We get the sense that the line between what is QNX and what is BB10 will begin to blur in the future, and so licensing BB10 in that area will not only continue, but grow.