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RIM boots both CEOs, as market woes continue

RIM has replaced its co-CEOs, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, with Thorsten Heins, the current chief operating officer. What's next for RIM and the BlackBerry line? 

By Matthew Shaer / January 23, 2012

RIM headquarters in Ontario, Canada.



Last year was not a very good one for RIM, maker of the BlackBerry smartphone line and the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

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Sales were down across the board, stock shares plummeted, and the BlackBerry steadily lost market share to Android and Apple. (Not to mention that whole three day outage thing.) Now comes news that Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the current co-CEOs of RIM will step down, handing over the reins to Thorstein Heins, the current RIM chief operating officer. 

In a joint statement, Jim Balsillie said he would remain a member of the RIM board, while Lazaridis said he would become the board's vice chair. Lazaridis pledged to focus on "the great company we have built, its iconic products, global brand and its talented employees." 

So does Heins have what it takes to reverse the RIM slide? Maybe, Larry Dignan writes over at ZDNet, but it's more likely that Heins ascension will just lead to more of the same. "[T]he removal of Balsillie and Lazaridis looks like a move to appease shareholders for a bit without changing the strategy overall," Dignan notes. Moreover, what RIM needs now is a couple blockbuster products, and it's far from clear that anything close to blockbuster is in the works. 

"The problem: RIM’s booth didn’t do all that hot at CES based on anecdotal reports. In fact, RIM had nothing to show. RIM touted its new PlayBook OS, but all that does is add the stuff—email and calendar—that should have been in the company’s first tablet," Dignan writes. Late last year, RIM wrote off the value of hundreds of millions of dollars in PlayBook stock, essentially an admission that the device was a market stinker. 

Speaking to Bloomberg, Ehud Gelblum, an analyst for Morgan Stanley, agreed that the slope would be steep for Heins. "Heins is a product execution guy, he’s not a visionary. Heins has to give people a reason why they need a BlackBerry. It’s going to be very difficult for him," Gelblum said. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.


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