Research In Motion finally has a new CEO. Here's what Thorsten Heins needs to do to get the BlackBerry-maker back on track.
"Get rid of Balsillie and Lazaridis" was the number one recommendation I had for RIM at the start of 2012. RIM's board has followed through and done just that. The company unanimously voted in former COO Thorsten Heins after Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie recommended him as their successor. The change was effective as of Sunday, January 22.
Heins joined RIM from Siemens Communications in December 2007 as senior VP for hardware engineering and became chief operating officer for product and sales in August 2011. Monday marks his first full day as president and CEO of the company. He will also become a member of the board.
Lazaridis and Balsillie will vacate their leadership roles within the RIM board, as well. Lazaridis will move from co-chair to vice chair of the board. He will take a new role within the company and focus more intently on products and innovation. Balsillie will stay on the board as a member and will become a director within the organization.
Existing board member Barbara Stymiest will take over as the chairperson of the board.
Now that the company has new leadership, we should expect some change, right? Not so fast. The company remains committed to its current path, which is to bring PlayBook OS 2.0 to market in February and bring BlackBerry 10--with support for Android applications--to market later this year.
Here's what Thorsten Heins should consider doing if he really wants to help give the company a fighting chance against its competitors.
1. Make BlackBerry 10 The Company's Number One Focus: In a press call Monday morning, Heins claimed BlackBerry 7's launch was one of its most successful, and that the new-ish operating system has been received warmly. That's great, but the company needs to focus like a laser on BlackBerry 10. It can't get this new system software to the market fast enough. Android 4.0 and iOS 5 already run circles around RIM's platform and continue to erode RIM's appeal. RIM needs its new platform available to consumers ASAP.
2. Kiss Developers' Behinds: RIM needs all the developer support it can get. Heins noted that developers are already excited about PlayBook OS 2.0, but that excitement needs to transcend the tablet OS in favor of the smartphone OS. Though RIM has promised to include compatibility with Android applications in BlackBerry 10, it needs a strong core of native apps that run on the platform. This is absolutely vital.
3. Create A Super Phone: RIM badly needs a smartphone that people will actually get excited about. RIM should strive to launch one, iconic device that will reignite the hunger of former CrackBerry addicts. This should be its initial approach to new hardware: tackle the super high-end users. If RIM can get a single hero product to market by the end of summer, it might have a better chance of surviving into 2013. Until it fields a device with a huge screen, great camera, 4G, and other modern smartphone essentials, buyers will continue to flock to Android and iOS.
4. Create An Everyday Phone: On the flip side, RIM's new CEO said that he believes the company has a great opportunity to address first-time smartphone users. It's worth pointing out that while smartphones are selling like mad, they only accounted for 46.5% of all cellphone sales in 2011. That means there are about 150 million people in the United States (and probably billions of people around the world) that will need to take that first step into smartphones. Heins wants that first step to be a BlackBerry--an admirable goal, but not as easy to achieve as perhaps he believes.
5. Sideline The Tablet: RIM is hard at work finalizing PlayBook OS 2.0. This is important, because it lays the foundation for BlackBerry 10. Apps written for PlayBook OS 2.0 will run in BlackBerry 10, according to RIM. Though the OS is important--indeed, the most important thing RIM is working on--RIM needs to drop its focus on tablet hardware, or at least significantly reduce the priority of tablets.
Comments made by Heins Monday morning suggest that RIM will move forward in the direction set by Lazaridis and Balsillie. He said that he doesn't think the company needs drastic change, though it does need to learn to evolve better. These comments will give investors pause as they try to gauge just how effective a leader Heins will be.
The last thing I'd recommend to Heins: Don't hold too firmly onto the past. Don't fear change, and don't be afraid to set your own course.
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