The Tech Herald

RIM gets a new boss after co-CEOs hand in their keys

by Steve Ragan - Jan 23 2012, 10:48

RIM gets a new boss after co-CEOs hand in their keys. (IMG:J.Anderson)

Acting on their own initiative, Research in Motion’s (RIM) co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down, effective immediately. In their stead, RIM’s COO, Thorsten Heins, has taken over.

Commenting on his departure, Balsillie said, “...this is the right time to pass the baton to new leadership, and I have complete confidence in Thorsten, the management team and the company.”

He will remain as a member of RIM’s Board of Directors with no operational control, along with Lazaridis, who will move into the role of Vice Chair.

“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership. Jim and I went to the Board and told them that we thought that time was now... the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond,” remarked Lazaridis.

In his role as CEO, Heins - who joined RIM from Siemens Communications Group in December 2007 - said he is excited by RIM’s future.

“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.”

Heins comes into the CEO position at a rough time for RIM, despite the optimism. While BlackBerry 7 is generating buzz, and there is excitement for PlayBook 2.0, RIM is barely holding the same spot, and losing ground. The company has faced criticism for not keeping up with the features and innovations commonly found in the devices backed by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

Despite $1.5 billion in cash reserves, the company’s market share fell to 11 percent in Q3 2011, down from 15 percent a year pervious. Apple’s iPhone and iPad, along with dozens of devices running Google’s Android have dominated the market, leaving little room for RIM, who has kept things essentially the same for several years now. Based on Heins’ comments, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

At one time, in 2008, BlackBerry sales pushed RIM’s market value to more than $80 billion. Now, after a slide of more than 80 percent, the company is holding at $5.17 billion, based on last quarter’s earnings.

The saving grace for RIM was the dominance it held when it came to mobile network operations. IT managers loved BlackBerry for its practical business use. Governments loved BlackBerry as well, for its security features and adaptability.

That’s changing however, as governments and enterprises are shifting away from RIM in order to meet the needs of their workforce, who are adopting consumer devices for work and play. Already, Android devices are being cleared for government use, and the iPad is the most common smart device that's not a phone on a given organization’s network.

Given the eye candy that is the iPad, it’s hard to imagine that the PlayBook will have any impact on the business segment of the tablet market. If RIM is to escape their slump, they have to come up with something that can compete with the openness and consumer-driven innovation that is flooding the smartphone and tablet markets, while leveraging it to gain ground in the business world.

The expectation is that BlackBerry 10 will do just that, but given the delays it has experienced so far, analysts aren’t holding their breath.

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