23. Thorsten Heins, CEO, Research In Motion – Most Powerful People in Wireless


Thorsten Heins, CEO, Research In MotionWhat makes him powerful: Thorsten Heins is gearing up for a major new product introduction--one Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is betting much of its future on.

After close to a decade of sitting near the top of the smartphone pile, RIM now is looking at dramatic market share declines in some parts of the world and intense competition from the likes of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). RIM shipped 7.7 million BlackBerry units in the third quarter and captured 4.3 percent market share, down from 9.6 percent in the year-ago period. Perhaps more importantly, longtime BlackBerry customers like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Pentagon are looking at either expanding away from BlackBerry by using iPhone and Android devices or dumping BlackBerry devices altogether.

Though Heins and other RIM executives have pointed to the company's continued strength in international markets like Asia and the Middle East, it's clear that RIM's business in North America and Europe is waning.

It's no secret though that RIM has pinned its future on BlackBerry 10, a redesigned version of the BlackBerry operating system that works on QNX technology. RIM has promised BB10 devices sometime next year, and has been showing off the platform to carriers and other companies during the past few months. According to RIM's various demonstrations, BB10 allows users to move through a "flow" of applications as "glanceable" information feeds. A gesture on the side of the screen brings up notifications, and users can seamlessly move from application to application via gestures. A gesture allows users to stay within an app but go into the next screen within that app (a message in an email inbox, for example).

But RIM has been hyping BB10 for more than a year now (the platform was previously called BBX). Moreover, it's unclear whether BB10 will offer enough innovation to catapult it above Apple's iOS, Google's Android or even Microsoft's new Windows Phone 8 platform. Heins has been working feverishly to put into place enough pieces to push BB10 into a winning position, such as ensuring a developer ecosystem and ways for users to purchase movies and other content. But no one knows if that will be enough.

Heins is aware of RIM's tenuous state, and is working to explore all avenues to success. For example, he recently said that the company's BlackBerry 10 platform will soon be ready for licensing by other manufacturers, and he touted machine-to-machine applications as another avenue where the software could be used. Such strategies could be leveraged in case RIM is unsuccessful in pushing BB10 on its own.

Heins, who took over RIM from founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis early this year, will need to play his cards just right in 2013 to ensure RIM's relevancy in 2014.+Mike

Special Report: Top 25 Most Powerful People in U.S. Wireless 2012