Newly installed RIM CEO Thorsten Heins took to the press this morning to assure both investors and customers that RIM will continue to pursue its strategy of launching new devices with BlackBerry 10 and the forthcoming launch of BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 next month, while revealing surprising details, such as the possibility to license BlackBerry 10 to third parties and the reiteration of the commitment to its current strategy.
The news of the resignation of the co-CEOs last night during an NFL game and the introductory statements from Heins this morning were enough to force a selloff in RIM stock today, ending with an eight percent drop. Ultimately, he is being seen as more of the same in terms of leadership style at RIM, instead of the stark, almost shocking change in leader many analysts and investors were hoping for.
It doesn’t help that Heins is continuing the same strategy that has led RIM to its current declining position in the consumer market in the US and Europe. While it’s enjoying growth in Southeast Asia, overall growth is shrinking every quarter, with more and more business customers moving away from the BlackBerry to Android and iOS now that both platforms have made great strides in corporate security and IT support compared to when both platforms launched in 2008 and 2007 respectively, showing just how much RIM has to do in terms of development with both PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 in order to remain competitive.
Below, comments from Heins taken from the introductory video filmed this morning that demonstrate the continuation of the same leadership style embodied by Balsillie and Lazaridis instead of substantial structural changes needed to turn the company’s fortunes around from its slump.
- “We have taken this to totally new heights and that journey isn’t over yet.”
- “If we continue doing well what we’re doing, I see no problems with us being in the top three players worldwide in the next years in wireless.”
- “At the very core of RIM is the innovation. We always think ahead. We always think forward. We sometimes think the unthinkable. And that is fantastic.”
- “Internally, from a process perspective, I think we need to get a bit more disciplined in our own processes.”
- “We are a great innovative company, but sometimes we innovate too much while we’re building a product.”
- “What we need to get a bit better at here is to have a little bit more of an ear toward the consumer. I want the strengthen this by bringing really good marketing expertise in.”
- “…With the ‘Be Bold’ campaigns, starting right now, I find this really exciting. I’m getting good feedback and we want to continue driving this.”
- “Don’t lose focus on what the present is. Congratulations to the team; we’ve seen great success with PlayBook 2.0 at CES. We are heading absolutely in the right direction.”
- “BB 10, needless to say, we have to ship on time. I can’t wait to see it.”
- “I’m also very performance driven. When we decide on getting something done, I want it to be done on time at good quality and at good cost. That defines our customer satisfaction.”
The above are the words of a leader groomed to continue the same pattern hoping for a different result rather than actively making the drastic changes needed for future success.
In addition he also confirmed an internal investigation into possible licensing of BlackBerry 10 to interested third-parties, though the likelihood of this coming to fruition is very low, as ODMs prefer Android for quick development and deployment and many other alternatives are in various stages of readiness, with webOS being the latest operating system relegated to the open source experiments file after HP abandoned webOS hardware last year.
Since the company’s hopes are now resting on QNX via the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10, it remains to be seen whether the new devices and the relaunch of the PlayBook next month will be enough to jumpstart RIM’s lagging fortunes in the US and Canada, much in the same way that Symbian and Windows Mobile were simply beaten into irrelevance due to shifts in the tastes of consumers for more multimedia oriented devices.
Unfortunately, Heins may come to realize that no amount of hardware or software can change consumer tastes overnight unless it represents the radical shift that helped propel both the iPhone and Android to their current place in the minds of consumers. Now more than ever, RIM would be better served to do away with its current plans and figure out a way to deliver a consumer friendly BlackBerry device that is not only the equal of iOS and Android but surpasses them in ease of use and performance.
We are long past the days where having a solid hardware keyboard and reliable email server were enough to drive the marketplace. RIM needs to learn how to jump ahead of the market or risk becoming another Symbian, webOS, even MeeGo. If they don’t, they only have themselves to blame for their eventual downfall when they had the opportunity to make a substantial change to their business for the better.