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Does BlackBerry have the smartphone features to stay relevant?

Research in Motion (RIM) must feel like the belle of the ball this week, especially after a year of major foibles, like the big BlackBerry outage. After Boy Genius Report mentioned that Samsung might be looking to purchase the BlackBerry developer, RIM’s stock price jumped by 9%. There have been whispers of Microsoft sniffing around RIM as well.

While some BlackBerry Messenger users would rather cut off an arm than put down their beloved CrackBerrys, this rumbling about who will buy RIM seems a little irrelevant among the other smartphones’ features available today. I’m about to horrify BlackBerry users, but sorry, guys, BlackBerry apps just can’t even come close to what’s out there for iPhones and Androids. I understand that using a BlackBerry is akin to taking your grandpa’s Cadillac cruiser out for a spin. It has a certain flair, but wouldn’t you really rather sport something a little — I don’t know — fresher?

RIM has stated that the BlackBerry’s software — BlackBerry OS 10 — will be released at the end of 2012 to new hardware. In smartphone years, that’s a product lifecycle away. Heck, we might even have the iPhone 5 by then. RIM will need more than a BlackBerry software upgrade if it wants to keep a foot in the game.

“If Samsung (or any other Android partner) were to integrate RIM’s enterprise services, like BlackBerry Messenger, into their offering, they would achieve instant differentiation in the increasingly monochrome Android space.  Not to mention gaining a brand which, despite its recent misfortune, still enjoys a loyal following and has seen recent gains in developing markets globally,” said Craig Cartier, a Frost & Sullivan analyst.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m an unabashed Applephile, so you can probably guess that I’m not using a BlackBerry. But I would definitely agree with Andy Patrizio that this is make-or-break time for RIM.

Let’s hear from the BlackBerry users in the group: Are you worried about losing your precious BlackBerry to the likes of Samsung or Microsoft? Am I being too hard on BlackBerry for its lackluster smartphone featuers? Do you think a buyout will change RIM’s strategy or commitment to quality?

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