New RIM President Plans Consumer Focus

By Joseph Palenchar On Jan 30 2012 - 6:01am

WATERLOO, ONTARIO – Research In Motion’s newly appointed president/CEO promised that the smartphone maker will become more “marketing-driven” and “consumer- oriented” while it improves execution of product and program management. In speaking to investors on a conference call, Thorsten Heins also said the BlackBerry maker has already begun to recruit a new chief marketing officer as part of the company’s effort to improve marketing communications and execution of the company’s go-to-market strategy. In the U.S., he noted, the public perception is skewed toward a view that the company is enterprise-focused. The company needs to become more “consumer-oriented” because “that’s where growth is coming from,” he said.

A focus on consumer marketing represents “a major change for us,” Heins added.

The company must also get “way better” at executing product and program management, he said, noting that the company “scaled tremendously fast” and “innovated while we developed product.” Innovating during product development “must stop,” he said. The company must get better at “process discipline,” and “products need to be prototyped,” he continued.

In other comments, Heins said he would “entertain requests” by other companies to license the planned Black- Berry 10 OS “if it makes sense strategically and tactically” but that licensing “is not my focus one.”

He also said he would not split the company into separate handset and services companies because the company’s devices, network, services and integrated solutions make the company “unique in wireless.”

Like before, the company’s strategy includes an effort “to be a really major player in the entry-level [smartphone] segments, Heins said. Fifty to 60 percent of phone users worldwide are feature-phone users, opening up a “huge potential” to upgrade them to smartphones, initially with entry-level phones and then to more powerful BlackBerry phones and to BlackBerry tablets and other BlackBerry computing devices, he explained. He called the strategy a “BlackBerry for everyone strategy.”

The OS for the PlayBook 2.0 tablet due in February, he noted, isn’t just a mobile-computing platform and will enable the company to “address other market segments.”

PlayBook 2.0 and the BlackBerry 10 OS will also have an Android player, strengthening RIM’s position in the smartphone and tablet markets, he added.

RIM’s board appointed Heins, RIM’s COO for product and sales, as president/CEO and as a board member. The board also appointed board member Barbara Stymiest as chair.

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, RIM’s cochairs and co-CEOs, left their posts in the wake of RIM’s declining market share and stock price but remain on the board. They said they decided to resign from their positions and recommended Heins’ appointment, which the board said it unanimously approved.

RIM said Lazaridis will work closely with. Heins “to offer strategic counsel, provide a smooth transition and continue to promote the BlackBerry brand worldwide.”

Lazarides said he and Balsillie decided to make the move and that they and the board agreed on the choice of Heins. Said Lazaridis, “With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0 shipping in February, and BlackBerry 10 expected to ship later this year, the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond.”

Lazaridis added, “There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership. Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now. “

For his part, Heins said the former co-chairs “took a bold step 18 months ago” with the purchased of QNX “to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade.” Heins called that move “the right path” for the company and said the company is strong, pointing to a balance sheet with around $1.5 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter and little debt.

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