What abject failure in the smartphone market looks like

It looks like hiring an investment bank to explore 'options' and dumping your head of sales

Smartphone market winners such as Apple and Google routinely get to announce record sales and revenue to dutifully impressed shareholders and analysts. Smartphone market losers, on the other hand, fend off rumors that they're seeking buyers, announce the departure of their head of sales after reporting dismal earnings, and publicly express bitterness toward an app maker abandoning their platform. From Reuters:

If Research In Motion Ltd were to hire an investment bank it would be to help it license its BlackBerry software or to negotiate a strategic investment, not to help it sell the company, a source close to RIM said on Thursday.

The Canadian company, which has been reported to be looking for advisors, has not yet hired any banks, the source said. The company has said it is examining a range of strategic options.

While Geoff Duncan over at Digital Trends lays out some reasonable alternatives to an outright sale of the company -- selling patents, opening its BlackBerry network to other smartphone platforms, licensing its OS -- I'm not sure I take at face value the anonymous source's claim that the company isn't interested in selling itself. I smell spin. Also from Reuters:

Nokia dropped its sales chief and promised to slash more costs, as Chief Executive Stephen Elop battles to reinvent the cellphone maker to compete with smartphone rivals.

The Finnish company, which is expected to be overtaken as the world's biggest handset maker by Samsung Electronics, swung to a net loss of 1.6 billion euros in the first quarter, hit by falling sales and heavy restructuring charges.

The article goes on to quote analysts who give Elop varying amounts of time to prove that Nokia's partnership with Microsoft was the correct strategy. But if it turns out to be the wrong strategy -- and early indications aren't promising -- where does that leave Nokia, with or without Elop? I wouldn't want to be a Nokia shareholder these days. FInally, from the Wall Street Journal, we learn that an RIM executive is not handling well the news that video voice mail app maker YouMail will no longer make apps for the BlackBerry. "Alec Saunders, RIM’s vice president for developer relations and an aggressive evangelist for the company ... posted a strongly worded response on his personal blog," the WSJ reported. After dismissing YouMail because it “simply wasn’t a marquee partner for us at RIM” ("I was never that into you anyway!"), Saunders gets personal toward YouMail CEO Alex Quilici:

“Alex, one (former) CEO to another, one entrepreneur to another – I think it’s time to hang up the spurs cowboy. From where I sit, it looks like YouMail needed to pivot five years ago to remain relevant, and you missed the window."

Yes, that's an RIM executive telling somebody else they missed the boat. Priceless.

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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