Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, long-time leaders of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), will step down as co-CEOs and co-chairmen of the struggling company. RIM announced Sunday that COO Thorsten Heins, who joined the company four years ago, will become CEO and director Barbara Stymiest will become chairman. Lazaridis will remain with the company as vice chairman and Balsillie will remain a board member.
Click here for video of RIM's Thorsten Heins on the company's strengths.
The management shakeup comes as RIM struggles to stay relevant when faced with competition from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and devices running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android software. Interestingly, investors didn't seem terribly happy with the results of the shakeup; the company's stock fell around 6 percent on the news to around $15.84 per share.
Balsillie and Lazaridis were instrumental in developing the BlackBerry, which was known for its ability deliver mobile email safely and securely. However, the two have come under fire for not being able to respond quickly enough to the demands of the market.
Late last year, RIM announced it would not release its first BlackBerry 10 smartphones running on QNX software until the "latter part" of 2012 because the dual-core LTE chipset it intends to use for the platform will not be available until mid-2012. Previously, RIM had said it expected QNX-based smartphones sometime in early 2012. The delay of BlackBerry 10 was considered a big snafu for the company and prompted many analysts to question the company's viability.
Heins, a former Siemens executive, was appointed COO for product and sales in July. In an interview with The New York Times, Heins said he plans to follow the same strategy that Balsillie and Lazaridis have put in place. Specifically, he said he is banking on BlackBerry 10 to revive the company, even though those devices aren't expected to hit the market until late this year.
In a conference call Monday with investors, Heins elaborated on how he plans to tackle the challenges facing RIM. One of the key challenges, he said, is executing on a stronger marketing message, particularly for the U.S. market. He said RIM is in the process of hiring a new CMO and wants to have one in place as soon as possible. "We need to engage more with the consumer base," he said. "We need to take them with us on the journey of exploring BlackBerry in the future."
Heins said RIM needs to improve its execution for internal processes and for products. He also said he remains confident in the QNX software platform, which serves as the basis for BlackBerry 10, calling it a proven platform. Heins said that if companies approached RIM about licensing BlackBerry 10 he would entertain the ideas, but said it is not his top priority, and that executing on the platform is.
The new RIM chief also said that he does not intend to break up the company's devices and services businesses, and that being a vertically integrated company is unique and positive for RIM. "We are strong because we have an integrated solution," he said. "I want to build on that. I will not in any way split this up."
RIM shipped 14.1 million BlackBerry smartphones in the third quarter, in line with previous guidance of between 13.5-14.5 million, and said sell-through was 13 million units in the quarter. The company shipped 150,000 PlayBooks in the quarter, down from 200,000 in the second quarter and 500,000 in the first quarter.
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