RIM: New CEO but same old problems, failed strategy

New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said the company was innovative and would stick to its current strategy.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Research in Motion finally ditched its not-so-dynamic co-CEO duo of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, but the new man in charge---Thorsten Heins---may be saddled by the same failed strategy.

In a statement, RIM confirmed that the co-CEO structure is toast. The move is overdue. RIM has stumbled repeatedly and touted next-generation products that never delivered. In the U.S., RIM is an also ran that can barely get shelf space with carriers. Internationally, RIM is strong, but that position is showing cracks too.

More: RIM chiefs step aside; board appoints new chairwoman | RIM statement | Heins video | RIM co-CEOs finally step aside, Thorsten Heins to take over as CEO by himself | CNET: RIM's leadership shakeup too little, too late? | ZDNet AU: RIM drops co-CEOs


What will Heins---formerly chief operating officer at RIM and a Siemens alum---really do?

Stick with the current strategy.

Heins said:

"Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade. We are more confident than ever that was the right path. It is Mike and Jim's continued unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain which has made RIM the great company that it is today. I share that philosophy and am very excited about the company's future."

And then Heins touted the balance sheet and said:

"BlackBerry 7 has been well received. We are very excited about PlayBook 2.0 and BlackBerry 10. The reception of our products at this year's Consumer Electronics Show was encouraging."

The problem: RIM's booth didn't do all that hot at CES based on anecdotal reports. In fact, RIM had nothing to show. RIM touted its new PlayBook OS, but all that does is add the stuff---email and calendar---that should have been in the company's first tablet. In a video, Heins portrayed RIM as innovative with a improving expectation. He said RIM's journey is just beginning and the company would prototype and develop products more efficiently. The aim: Be a top 3 mobile player.

Heins said he'd do the following with RIM:

  • Become more efficient.
  • Develop better processes.
  • Prototype and develop products continually.
  • Communicate better with stakeholders.
  • Attract key designers to focus on consumerization.
  • Move decisively.

Add it up and the removal of Balsillie and Lazaridis looks like a move to appease shareholders for a bit without changing the strategy overall. Balsillie and Lazaridis are still on RIM's board. Barbara Stymiest is now the chairwoman of the board.

With any luck Heins will go for something more dramatic once he has a few months under his belt. If not, RIM still may not survive and thrive. The problems for RIM go like this:

PlayBook 2.0: RIM is a tablet joke at the moment. The PlayBook is tainted and it's unclear whether RIM can position it as an enterprise device. There's also the price tag. RIM will have to lose money on the PlayBook with little to no ecosystem backing it.

QNX or BlackBerry 10. Heins was on the BlackBerry 10 bandwagon. That could be the wrong horse to bet on. BlackBerry 10 looks like one of those home run products that fail to come through.

Balsillie and Lazaridis are still in the picture. The former co-CEOS will be directors and shareholders. They basically control the company. How much independence will Heins really have?

RIM isn't nimble and certainly isn't bold. It would be more encouraging if Heins indicated that there would be a software and services strategy. Instead, he pushed the same tired products that made RIM irrelevant in the first place.

Heins could be the second coming of Steve Jobs, but his first words cast a lot of doubt on RIM's ability to turn things around.

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