Research In Motion has a real chance of turning itself around under the leadership of Thorsten Heins. The general impression RIM's new(ish) CEO left with BlackBerry World attendees, and members of the press in particular, was a very positive one. Not only is he a man of action, but he's a man who comes across as genuine, driven, and fully aware of the fire pit in which he and Research In Motion stand.
During the opening keynote Tuesday, Heins appeared at ease in front of the 5,000 attendees of BlackBerry World 2012. He came across as confident, though a little bit reserved. He exhibited real enthusiasm for the technology and product demonstrations that took place on stage, and delivered a solid first performance.
Heins' follow-up performance Wednesday, however, markedly changed the tone between RIM's leadership and the press to whom he was speaking. He took 45 minutes to talk directly and frankly with on-site media, speaking about his first three months at the helm of the BlackBerry maker, including all the steps the company has so far taken and will continue to take to bring BlackBerry 10 and new smartphones to market later this year. He also fielded questions directly from the press and offered up convincing answers.
[ Can Research In Motion make good on its quest to restore confidence? See 5 Changes RIM Users Must See. ]
This is a whole new RIM.
In my time covering mobile technology, which dates back to 2001, neither Mike Lazaridis nor Jim Balsillie ever took the time to hold a similar chat with the press. Sure, they stood on stage and made presentations, but a personal Q&A session simply would never have happened. That Heins was willing to take the time speaks a lot about how he wants to move forward at RIM.
To wit, he made specific note of providing an update on RIM's search for a chief marketing officer. He believes firmly that the company has not provided a consistent message in the past, and that he believes that needs to change. He's close to making a selection for the role.
Heins also chided the press a little bit about getting some details about the BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device and its purpose incorrect in news articles. That tells us he's paying attention to what's being written about RIM, and wants to make sure that the record is accurate.
The biggest take-away Heins left with conference attendees, though, is that he gets it. He REALLY gets it. He knows where the company stands with respect to its competitors, knows how its image has become tarnished, knows that the company doesn't have a lot of time, and knows that the company needs to execute the launch of BlackBerry 10 perfectly. He reiterated numerous times that RIM is "laser focused" on making the best mobile platform and devices it knows how to.
Former co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie never got it, and as a result are largely to blame for the company's current position in the market. They ignored every warning and demonstrated a prolonged sense of tone-deafness that perplexed nearly every analyst, investor, and reporter paying attention to RIM's doings.
Last, I believed every word Thorsten Heins said. I'm not the only one. I took an informal poll of my media colleagues in the press room and the consensus is that Heins knows what he's doing and will do his utmost to make sure RIM succeeds. If it doesn't, it won't be because Heins didn't give it all he could. The man is, as they say, a straight shooter who spoke the truth and didn't hide anything.
Thank you, Mr. Heins, for restoring my faith in RIM's leadership.
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