Yo, RIM: Where’s your sense of urgency?

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.

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