RIP, RIM

Disappointing sales force BlackBerry maker to cut earnings forecast as market share continues precipitous decline

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You have to tether it to your BlackBerry to get email? Are you kidding? How's a tablet like that going to compete against Apple's iPad or any number of devices powered by Google's mobile OS? I know there's a lot of pressure to get products out to the market, but it really is a good idea to finish them first.

Maybe none of this could have avoided. There's such a thing as being outperformed by a competitor, especially one with greater resources and a superior ability to attract developers to its platform.

Sad to say, some bad things are ahead for RIM, including layoffs. It's not going to be pretty to watch, and it's hard not to get the feeling that RIM has passed a tipping point in terms of remaining competitive as a standalone mobile device manufacturer.

So what's going to happen in the long run? There was a time when a company like Cisco Systems might have been interested in RIM. But Cisco has decided its forays into the consumer market haven't worked, so we probably can dismiss that possibility.

This might sound crazy, but I wouldn't rule out Microsoft buying RIM. Here's why: I believe the Microsoft-Nokia partnership is destined for big problems, for both corporate culture and execution reasons. But since Nokia has much more at stake in the partnership (unfortunately for Stephen Elop) than Microsoft, for which the mobile market is but one line of business, Redmond conceivably could lose interest in the deal.

But with a market cap of $224 billion, Microsoft could easily absorb RIM. It would save on WP7 development costs, plus it already has a strong presence in the corporate market, where RIM has excelled (though that's also eroding). Maybe Microsoft could craft a two-tiered mobile strategy, selling higher-priced BlackBerrys along with cheaper WP7s.

Obviously it's not a perfect idea, but it's not a perfect world, especially for RIM these days. And unless something changes dramatically for the company, what we're witnessing looks an awful lot like a death spiral.

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