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RIM may license BlackBerry 10 OS to other manufacturers

RIM may license its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system to other phone manufacturers, CEO Thorsten Heins has said. Speaking to the Telegraph, Heins said partnering with other companies could be one way for the beleaguered Canadian firm to more effectively compete with larger manufacturers.

“We don’t have the economy of scale to compete against the guys who crank out 60 handsets a year. We have to differentiate and have a focused platform. To deliver BB10 we may need to look at licensing it to someone who can do this at a way better cost proposition than I can do it. There’s different options we could do that we’re currently investigating,” he said.

The comment suggests RIM is taking a more serious look at the possibility of licensing its operating system, which Heins has alluded to in the past. Though he did not outline a definite plan, Heins suggests the company has been mulling over a couple of options.

“You could think about us building a reference system, and then basically licensing that reference design, have others build the hardware around it – either it’s a BlackBerry or it’s something else being built on the BlackBerry platform,” he said, adding that RIM will not “abandon the subscriber base” whether it builds its own handsets or works with a partner.

The key for RIM would be to find a device manufacturer willing to take the risk of developing a BB10 handset. But given that the likes of Samsung, HTC, and Nokia are tied up with Android and Windows Phone, convincing them to adopt a BlackBerry OS could prove to be a bit of a struggle.

As for defending his company against the doom-and-gloom predictions that abound, Heins insisted that BlackBerry is “not in a trough,” pointing out that “if you look at the platform it’s still growing, if you look at the devices we’ve got a single phone that’s sold 45 million units.”

The shift from BlackBerry OS7 to BB10, which he describes as a radical change, is responsible for the bulk of the company’s ongoing struggles. But its fortunes will turn around when the new platform is released in the first quarter of 2013, he promised

“The teams are working relentlessly day and night, at the weekends – it’s a once in a decade change that will see us through the next ten years,” Heins said.