What makes them powerful: Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, co-CEOs of Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), come to the company from different places. Lazaridis, a company co-founder, has been with RIM since the beginning, while Balsillie joined RIM as a co-CEO in 1992. Balsillie and Lazaridis fulfill different roles, with Balsillie focusing on driving corporate strategy, business development, marketing, sales, and finance and Lazaridis guiding the company's product strategy, research and development, product development, and manufacturing.
The executives have their work cut out for them in 2012. Next year RIM plans to launch smartphones running the company's new BBX platform. The effort represents a Hail Mary for RIM, which has suffered from dramatic declines in its U.S. market share (RIM seems to be faring better in international markets, including Europe and Asia). In the United States, RIM's smartphone market share, according to comScore, has dropped from around 40 percent to around 20 percent in just 12 months. BBX is RIM's efforts to revamp its tired brand and image in a world cluttered with high-end Windows Phone, iOS and Android offerings.
And that's not the end to RIM's problems. The company this year jumped into the tablet market, but has so far failed to gain much traction. In its most recent quarter, RIM shipped just 200,000 PlayBook tablets, way down from the 500,000 it shipped in the previous quarter and a massive miss from analysts' expectations of 500,000. RIM, as most other tablet vendors have found, has been unable to tap into Apple's grip on the market through its iPad.
Despite the somewhat dreary outlook, RIM's Lazaridis and Balsillie are staying positive. And they do have reason to do so. If BBX is what they say, the platform could represent a strong alternative to the offerings from Apple and Google--an alternative that wireless carriers might appreciate, given how much mindshare they have ceded to Android and iOS. Furthermore, RIM continues to enjoy a solid position among its core market of enterprise users, and the company continues to cater to business users' tastes for security and reliability (RIM's recent outage notwithstanding).
Yes, RIM's Lazaridis and Balsillie have their work cut out for them. But they were the ones to push RIM into the smartphone spotlight before the advent of the iPhone, and they may be able to do it after the iPhone as well. +Mike