At a time when the smartphone war is picking up, former Wall Street star BlackBerry Limited (NASDAQ/BBRY) is running for the exit as fast as it can. The company is expected to be sold in some form by November, as it tries to unload its issues on another company.
The stakes are high and extremely competitive. BlackBerry finally realized this. Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE/HPQ) realized this early and vaulted from the tablet market; albeit, it’s still developing a higher-end tablet geared toward companies. Since its decision, Hewlett-Packard (HP) has doubled in price and fared much better than I previously thought it would.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ/MSFT) is proposing to acquire the cell phone business of another former Wall Street darling, Nokia Corporation (NYSE/NOK), to take a run at market leaders Apple Inc. (NASDAQ/AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Read “Why I Like Microsoft’s Proposed Acquisition of Nokia’s Cell Phone Business.”)
So, we now have a three-party battle for smartphone and tablet supremacy.
Apple dominates the U.S. market and continues to make the most attractive products that consumers will line up overnight to get their hands on. The next-generation “iPhone” will be launched tomorrow to great anticipation. (I’m actually looking forward to it, and may upgrade my old “iPhone 4.”)
Of course, Apple is also expected to launch a cheaper plastic “iPhone 5” version that will cater to those who can’t afford the hefty price tag not only in America, but in the emerging markets as well. If Apple, can get its smartphones sold in China (it’s already had talks), it could be a massive game-changer for the company and could really add some spark to a stock that has been looking for love.
Samsung dominates the emerging markets, but the field will likely get crowded with Nokia getting a push from Microsoft and the addition of a cheaper iPhone.
If Microsoft can close its acquisition of Nokia, it would jump to third place, but with tons of work to do. While it will not be easy, I wouldn’t be ruling out Microsoft, with its vault of cash ready to drive its mobility sector. The Nokia “Lumia” phone, which uses the “Windows” mobile platform, is not that bad; with some changes and tweaks, it could take a run at the market leaders. For Microsoft, Nokia is currently huge in the emerging markets due to the low cost of its devices, so this is a key advantage for the company—that is, unless Microsoft somehow screws it up and decides to jack up its prices.
As for BlackBerry, its time has come. The products are still very good, but it needs a new owner who can somehow turn things around and get the former leader back in the race.