BlackBerry has reportedly put itself on the fast track to be acquired.
According to a Wednesday report from The Wall Street Journal, the struggling smartphone maker plans to conduct a quick auction that could be completed by November. Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the Journal reported that BlackBerry has already had preliminary discussions with potential buyers that are interested in acquiring parts or all of the company.
Those suitors, according to the report, include financial firms Bain Capital and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, as well as some IT companies, most notably Lenovo. The Chinese computer maker disclosed its interest in BlackBerry earlier this year when Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing told a French newspaper that a BlackBerry acquisition "could possibly make sense."
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Wednesday's report follows BlackBerry's formal announcement last month that it had formed a special committee for the "exploration of strategic alternatives," including joint ventures, new strategic alliances, and a sale of part or all of the company.
BlackBerry launched a comeback effort earlier this year with the release of its BlackBerry 10 operating system and new Z10 and Q10 smartphones. But that effort was stalled in July when the company's stock fell 25 percent following disappointing earnings for its fiscal first quarter.
Jimmy Tam, president of BlackBerry partner Throne Computer Systems in Toronto, said he hopes the company gets a sale completed quickly. "I think BlackBerry needs to be acquired at this point," he said. "It's just too competitive out there with Android and Apple."
Tam said his last two customers running BlackBerry Enterprise Server just switched to Android alternatives. While he still has some clients with personal BlackBerry devices, he doesn't see potential for the company in the highly competitive consumer smartphone market.
"The way for BlackBerry to survive is to focus on vertical markets and cater to them instead of focusing on the consumer," Tam said. "They just don't have what it takes to appeal to a general user."
Other BlackBerry partners aren't as pessimistic. Robert Gogolen, president of EMF in Keene, N.H., said his customers' BlackBerry user base has remained steady. "We don't see people running away from BlackBerry," Gogolen said. "I'm not worried about them going away at least for the next two to three years."
As for the company's future, Gogolen said he would like to see BlackBerry be taken private so the smartphone maker won't have to deal with the distractions of the stock market. He also said it's too soon to count BlackBerry out.
"There was a time when everyone said IBM and Apple were going under," Gogolen said. "BlackBerry has a huge challenge and I don't think they'll ever have the handset market share they once had. But they've got a great technology and a loyal customer base, and those are right ingredients to give them a fighting chance."
PUBLISHED SEPT. 5, 2013