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RIM's New CEO: 5 Takeaways

Ian Paul | Jan. 24, 2012
Research in Motion announced late Sunday the appointment of a new CEO as the BlackBerry maker struggles to regain relevance in a smartphone world increasingly dominated by iPhones and Android devices.

Research in Motion announced late Sunday the appointment of a new CEO as the BlackBerry maker struggles to regain relevance in a smartphone world increasingly dominated by iPhones and Android devices. Former co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are passing the reigns to the company's former co-COO Thorsten Heins, who worked with Siemens AG before joining RIM in 2007. To show off its new leader, RIM on Sunday issued a seven-minute video featuring Heins talking about himself, RIM's current situation, and the company's future.

Shareholders, critics and analysts have been calling for RIM's tag-team chiefs to step aside for months as the company's U.S. market share continues to fall off a cliff. Between July 2010 and October 2010, RIM owned about 35.8 percent of U.S. smartphone users. By November, that number had dropped almost in half to just 16.6 percent, according to metrics firm ComScore. Balsillie and Lazaridis will stay on as board members, with Lazaridis serving as vice chair and chair of the board's new Innovation Committee.

One of the few bright spots for RIM has been the company's popularity overseas helping to buoy the smartphone maker's diminishing fortunes in North America. RIM in December said its subscriber base had increased by 35 percent compared to the year prior for a total of 75 million subscribers.

The company has also been struggling to gain a foothold in the tablet market against a stream of Android devices and Apple's iPad. In December, RIM said it has shipped just 150,000 tablets between late September and November, down from 200,000 the prior quarter and 500,000 during the PlayBook's debut sales period in early 2011.

Amid RIM's turmoil have been rumors of buyouts from a number of companies, including Amazon, even Microsoft and Nokia, and Samsung; as well as suggestions that RIM may license its software to other manufacturers.

Licensing software is a notion that Heins may still pursue, but RIM's best hope may lie in a new smartphone platform, dubbed BlackBerry 10, set to debut later in 2012. Blackberry 10 merges RIM's own platform with QNXsoftware -- a 2010 RIM acquisition.

So can RIM's new German-born CEO pull the company from the brink of disaster with a blitz of innovation, or is the whole company doomed to go kaput? As Balsillie and Lazaridis step aside, here are a few interesting quotes from Heins' introductory video.

Products, Plans, Promises

"We have taken this [company] to total new heights and that journey isn't over yet."

Huh? By new heights do you mean a steadily shrinking market share in the U.S. with flat and sometimes negative unit sales? Do you mean new heights such as the odd TruePress technology meant to mimic physical feedback from key presses on a touchscreen device? Are you talking about shipping a touchscreen tablet absent two mainstays of the BlackBerry world -- native e-mail and BlackBerry Messenger -- only to discover that nobody wanted to buy the thing? Or are you talking about how RIM's new platform designed to take on the iPhone and Android, which is only coming to fruition in 2012, five years after the first iPhone launched?

 

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