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Nokia deal doesn’t change much for BlackBerry

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The hardy souls still holding BlackBerry Ltd. stock will be encouraged by the $7.2-billion (U.S.) price tag for Nokia Corp. handset business. But according to one technology strategist, the true catalyst for the deal does not apply to BlackBerry, and now Microsoft has been likely removed as a potential bidder for Canada's most famous electronic devices.

Nokia handsets make up 14.2 per cent of global market share, well above BlackBerry's 2.9 per cent. This does not, however, translate automatically into a $1.5-billion proportional bid for BlackBerry's hardware business

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Ben Thompson of technology strategy site Stratechery believes that Microsoft was more or less forced to buy Nokia to avoid scuttling the Windows Phone initiative:

"I theorize that Nokia was either going to switch to Android or was on the verge of going bankrupt. And, had Nokia abandoned Windows Phone, then Windows Phone would be dead."

It's not often that a company on the verge of bankruptcy has all the leverage in a takeover deal but this seems to be the case here. This leverage explains the surprisingly high price Microsoft paid.

Nokia handsets have value to Microsoft, if no other company, but it's still not clear who would bid for BlackBerry or how much they would be willing to pay. BlackBerry's secure network does have substantial value, especially for governments, but there is no corporate behemoth dependent on BlackBerry devices for an entire business unit.

Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia is marginally positive for BlackBerry but in the end doesn't change much. The company is still on the lookout for a potential suitor, and there are still no logical candidates.

Editor's note: This article incorrectly stated that Nokia handsets comprise 1.2 per cent of global smartphone market share. The incorrect figure is the market share held by of Nokia's now-discontinued Symbian operating system. The Globe regrets the error.

Scott Barlow is a contributor to ROB Insight, the business commentary service available to Globe Unlimited subscribers. Click here to read more of his Insights, and follow Scott on Twitter at @SBarlow_ROB.

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