Analysts: New CEO will not save RIM

Canadian company beset by slow time-to-market for new devices powered by BlackBerry 10 platform and tough competition, and change in leadership will not reverse situation, analysts say.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

Even as BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) struggles to be more competitive in a mobile landscape dominated by Apple and Google's Android operating system, analysts think that the company is already in a difficult situation and a leadership change will not make much of a difference.

In a December report by CNN Money, Gartner's research director Carolina Milanesi said that RIM is, to some extent, "still in denial" when it comes to the shortcomings in their product offering. "Investors want to see a change, and new leadership is usually what investors take as a serious attempt to change," she said.

On Tuesday, it was reported that seven of RIM's nine directors, which include co-CEOs and co-chairmen Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, have been analyzing the company's board structure and contemplating a change that could see Barbara Stymiest, another director, take over the chairman role.

Commenting on the purported changes, Phil Hassey, owner of research firm CapioIT, told ZDNet Asia that a new CEO "might be too late" to save the BlackBerry maker. The new person in change will not "get the product out of the door" before the timeline outlined by the company earlier, he pointed out.

RIM had announced last December that consumers need to wait until the second half of this year before they can get their hands on a smartphone powered by the BlackBerry 10 operating system (OS).

"The product release timetable leaves too much space for the competition," Hassey said. "By then, it will be up against the near-mythical iPhone 5, and new Android and Windows devices."

Jayesh Easwaramony, vice president of ICT Practice at Frost & Sullivan Asia-Pacific, agreed that RIM is already in a very tough situation.

There was a big upside when RIM moved away from being just a corporate handset maker to playing in the consumer market, he noted. However, since then, consumers see limited value in its BlackBerry devices when compared with those from Apple, Samsung and HTC, among others, he added.

At the same time, its smartphone rivals have evolved to become platform players combining hardware, software and other monetization offerings, making it even more difficult for RIM's "vertically integrated play" to flourish, the analyst said.

"RIM's growth story is over, although the company has taken best efforts to arrest the decline. We expect to see further slides in the short term," Easwaramony surmised.

Ovum analyst Nick Dillon, too, called on RIM to accelerate its pace in bringing the BlackBerry 10 OS to market and increasing the attractiveness of its offerings through new services. Should it fail to do so, the company risks being left further being by its rivals, he warned.

Frost & Sullivan's Easwaramony suggests that if a new leader is indeed installed, the person should evaluate the price of its handsets or attempt a comeback in the tablet market, where there is still room for low-cost alternatives to the iPad.

"RIM also needs to provide more enterprise mobility software toolkits to the corporate user like it did by providing device and security management for other phones," he said.

RIM declined to comment, saying that the company "cannot comment on rumors or speculation".

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