|The pressure's mounting on embattled handset maker RIM|
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Research in Motion's ( RIMM) problems may be mounting, but the troubled handset maker could still offer rich pickings for Microsoft ( MSFT), according to experts. "I think that the best opportunity for them is to be acquired by Microsoft," explained Paul Amsellem, president of The Mobile Network Group, a Paris, France-based mobile marketing company. "The future of RIM is probably in Microsoft's hands."
There has, of course, already been speculation that Microsoft could buy another under-performing phone giant: Nokia ( NOK). The software behemoth has a close relationship with Nokia, so a merger would make sense, particularly as Microsoft prepares its Windows 8 onslaught. Amsellem, however, thinks that Microsoft and RIM could be a match made in heaven, citing RIM's strengths in email, instant messaging and data compression algorithms. "It would be useful for Microsoft to use these assets to enrich the Windows 8 platform," he told TheStreet, adding that the algorithm can help service providers ease the traffic burden on strained networks. Another expert agrees that Microsoft could grab RIM, but warns that other big-name tech firms could also be in the hunt for the beleaguered phone maker. "Potential logical buyers include Amazon ( AMZN), Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Nokia, and possibly Facebook ( FB) (should it decide it needs to be in the mobile device business)," explained Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, in a note released earlier this week. On Tuesday RIM forecast an operating loss for its fiscal first quarter, and said it has hired bankers to help with its ongoing strategic review. RIM also announced plans to cut its work force, adding to the storm clouds gathering around the company. Rocked by delayed product launches, and fierce competition from Apple ( AAPL), Google's ( GOOG) Android phones, and, increasingly, Microsoft's Windows phones, investors have fled RIM in droves. The company's stock is down more than 28% this year and even the first glimpse of the long overdue BlackBerry 10 operating system earlier this month has done nothing to placate investors. Initially expected in 2011, RIM has said the technology will make its debut in the second half of 2012.