Current Magazine

Can Thorstein Heins, BlackBerry-maker RIM’s New Leader, Turn Around the Firm’s Failing Fortunes?

Posted on the 23 January 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Can Thorstein Heins, BlackBerry-maker RIM’s new leader, turn around the firm’s failing fortunes?

A BlackBerry. Photo credit: Enrique Dans

Blackberry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) has announced that its co-chief executives Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have stepped down in a shake-up. Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984, will become vice chairman and Balsillie will continue to sit on the board but not have any operational role, reported the BBC. Thorsten Heins, who joined RIM in 2007, replaces the duo today as the ailing firm’s new head honcho. The shake-up comes as RIM struggle to keep apace with rivals Apple and Google.

“There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership”, said Lazaridis at a press conference at RIM’s headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. “Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now.”

Blackberry has suffered major setbacks in recent months. It had its worst service outage in 2011 and has been losing market share to its competitors in the smartphone markets, reported the BBC, which noted that billons of dollars have been wiped from its market value as shares have tumbled 75% over the past 11 months. The tech commentariat concur that German-born Heins has a mighty job on his hands to steady the ship and plot a safe course.

I don’t think that there is a drastic change needed. We are evolving our tactics and processes. I don’t feel that I was held back in any way to do what I needed to do”, commented Heins in an introductory call with the media.

Drastic need for change? Lance Ulanoff of Mashable interviewed Heins and wondered if he is denial? Ulanoff questioned Heins’ assessment that there’s no drastic need for change at RIM. “Where does RIM go from here?” asked Ulanoff. “Heins promises that technology will remain at its core and that he wants to ‘scale this company up.’ Can Heins lead RIM’s rebound from a year of mishaps, or have consumers, the ones he desperately wants to communicate with, lost faith?”

Same as the old top brass? Jordan Crook at Engadget was scathing of Heins same-as-before approach and detected a little too much “Lazaridis-style hubris” in his tone: “So, let’s just parse this out, shall we? Heins, as COO, was never held back in executing operational decisions or strategies. That means that anything he has wanted to do to help grow (and likely save) the brand, he could’ve already done. In other words, don’t expect a brand new BlackBerry or a brand new RIM.” Crook said that getting the BlackBerry 10 to market fast should be Heins number one priority.

“BlackBerrys may have looked great years ago, but so did mullets. Heins really needs to sign up a new design team to give RIM’s hardware the radical haircut it really deserves”, suggested Cnet’s Natasha Lomas, who added, “RIM needs to take its pile of Qwerty keyboards into the back yard and blow them sky high. It’s time for Heins to get in touch with his inner touchscreen – and kill the keyboard inside.”

What needs doing. Natasha Lomas of Cnet suggested the five things RIM’s new CEO needs to do to “turn the once mighty mobile tanker around and catch up with the likes of Android and iOS.” First and foremost, she said he needs to make Blackberry 10 “insanely great”, and noted that swapping CEOs is all well and good, but there’s no substitute for a decent operating system.” Lomas also advised Heins to purge RIM’s “cluttered” portfolio, “stop being boring” when it comes top hardware design, ditch the Qwerty keypads and “ditch the teens … low-priced hardware may win you fans in gangland among those who like to use BBM to organize riots, but it’s not going to up your brand cache with the civilised majority … Heins needs to make BlackBerry cool again – and making gadgets an object of aspirational lust usually means making them unaffordable for teenagers. Fewer, more expensive BlackBerrys should be on Heins’ mind. Sorry kids.”

More in gadgets

  • iPad3 rumours ramp up
  • iOS 5: revolution or more of the same?
  • iPhone 4S: Siri — game-changer or gimmick?
  • Smartphone arm

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Paperblog Hot Topics