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Summary:

Research In Motion’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, held his first conference call on Monday morning, reiterating his view that the company is not in need of a major shakeup but instead some improvements in processes, marketing and consumer focus.

Thorsten heins

Research In Motion’s new CEO, Thorsten Heins, held his first conference call on Monday morning, reiterating his view that the company is not in need of a major shakeup but instead some improvement in processes, marketing and consumer focus.

Heins said he was open to licensing the BlackBerry 10 platform set to appear at the end of this year but is focused now on strengthening RIM’s integrated smartphone model.

“I don’t think there is some drastic change needed. We are evolving, we are evolving our tactics . . . this is not a seismic change, this is scaling the company further,” Heins said.

He said the company needs to focus on being more marketing driven as well as communicating to customers, especially consumers. Heins also mentioned he is looking to fill the open chief marketing officer position as soon as possible and wants someone who can listen as well as communicate and take RIM’s marketing up a notch.

Heins said RIM also needs to execute better on innovation. He thinks there needs to be a more orderly process of achieving innovation and then building a product, so the innovation discoveries can be applied to prototypes, not products in the midst of development. Heins, who was most recently the chief operating officer for Product and Sales, said he was not held back previously as COO.

One thing Heins is not interested in doing is separating RIM’s businesses. He said the company’s strength is in its integrated approach to hardware, software and ecosystem, drawing a comparison to Apple. He touted QNX, the basis of both the PlayBook operating system and the BlackBerry 10 smartphone platform, saying it could be applied to other markets beyond tablets and smartphones. He also touted QNX’s ability to handle true multitasking and said it will be able to run Android apps, which should address questions about the number of apps available on BlackBerry devices.

Heins also added that he was interested in building up a culture to empower employees to take appropriate decisions, take risks and be accountable for their decisions.

Again, this isn’t much different than the comments put out on Sunday night by Heins. But it again shows what RIM’s priorities are. The company doesn’t see a big problem on its hands, just something that a little more efficiency, innovation and marketing will solve. I hope that attitude is Heins’ way of being more deferential to former CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, because it seems like the company needs more than that to really compete.

There doesn’t seem to be a real sense of urgency on the part of Heins, and that could be a problem. RIM is falling behind, and it needs to transform itself quickly. If you have any doubt, just look at Nokia over the past few years: It may have had the right strategy, but it took far too long to execute it.

Heins seems to believe that RIM is going to be fine because it has an integrated approach, just like that “other fruit company.” But there’s a lot of distance between Apple and BlackBerry, and I don’t think marketing is the key differentiator here. RIM needs to put out some stellar devices with great software and apps. If you do that, the marketing comes more easily. Right now, RIM doesn’t have much of a story to tell, and a new CMO won’t change things. RIM needs to find something that it can do better than others. It can’t just reach parity with iOS and Android and hope it can compete again.

That’s why I’m worried about Heins. He doesn’t seem prepared to really light a fire under RIM. And with Lazaridis and Balsillie hovering over him, I wonder if he can break free of their legacy quickly enough and forcefully enough to matter. We will see. We just have words from RIM here. The real test is what products we see and how quickly they come to market.

  1. Travis Henning Monday, January 23, 2012

    In the reading articles, comments, etc, the primary issue as I see it with RIM is cultural. They seem to be a very political organization thus making them slow. That won’t change if the new CEO comes from within. Particularly if as you stated, the two former CEOs are still around in even a limited capacity. As an example, if the new CEO really believes that the crux of their falling market share has to do with inadequate marketing to consumers, the future for RIM is going to be continued decline. I’m sure RIM has many talented employees, but if they aren’t allowed to do their best work under the corporate culture, the company suffers.

    I don’t really understand how the shareholders are putting up with this sort of maneuvering.

    There’s mention of execution on innovation. Great. Except they’re out of time. An “orderly process” of innovation is what put them in this position. Their QNX based phones won’t be out until the end of this year. At which point they’re competing against iOS 6 and the next gen iPhone, Android 5 and a Windows Phone OS that seems to be gaining a bit of traction. Is RIM planning on keeping up with the natural language interface that Apple and Google are driving towards? Do they have the resources to develop such innovative features to differentiate from Apple/Google or are the resources all tied up in simply getting BB10 up and running?

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  2. My God, he looks about 17

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  3. Kevin Fitchard Monday, January 23, 2012

    RIM’s approach to a crisis is certainly much different than Nokia’s, huh?

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  4. Agreed – he does not even acknowledge the challenge that rimm is sinking – the need for swift turnaround – board mistake – he should be interim at best

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  5. Travis, I’m with you: RIM seems to mimic some of the worst in rigid, hyper-political thinking found in some of the businesses it serves.

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  6. Actually, I am excited. Perhaps this will accelerate RIM’s complete disintegration .

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  7. Lol. We will see but I love the somewhat biased pics. Newer iphone with what looks to be a os 5 device from the fact that it has a trackball.

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