RIM’s CEOs Step Down, Thorsten Heins Appointed as New CEO

That’s what you get for not delivering. As had been anticipated for a while now, the two co-CEOs of Research In Motion, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, will step down from their posts. Chief operating officer Thorsten Heins will take over the role of CEO, while the two former co-CEOs will move to other functions within the company.

RIM held a fairly good market position in especially North America, but after the arrival of the iPhone, and later Android, the company plunged into an unguided freefall. RIM is one of the two victims of the iPhone/Android one-two punch (the other is Nokia) who didn’t manage to re-invent itself in any significant way. Heads were bound to roll at some point.

“Mike and Jim took a bold step 18 months ago when RIM purchased QNX to shepherd the transformation of the BlackBerry platform for the next decade,” Heins said, “We are more confident than ever that was the right path. It is Mike and Jim’s continued unwillingness to sacrifice long-term value for short-term gain which has made RIM the great company that it is today. I share that philosophy and am very excited about the company’s future.”

“As with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains. We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result,” he added, “Going forward, we will continue to focus both on short-term and long-term growth, strategic planning, a customer and market-based product approach, and flawless execution. We are in the process of recruiting a new chief marketing officer to work closely with our product and sales teams to deliver the most compelling products and services.”

Even though it’s no guarantee, I do believe RIM has all the right pieces of the puzzle from a technology standpoint. They make good and reliable hardware, have the corporate backing, and own a software stack, QNX, that has been designed from day one to run on extremely constrained hardware. All they need now is someone with the vision to tie it all together to create a compelling package.

I don’t know the good man, but after watching this introductory video, I just don’t think he’s the right man to do so. Of course, judging someone by watching a video is a bit silly, but when I listen to, say, Microsoft’s Sinofsky or Apple’s Ive, they clearly come across as people that have an idea of where they want their products to go. Heins, on the other hand, sounds like he’s ticking off the company PR talk checklist.

We’ll see where it all goes, but I’m not exactly brimming with confidence. At this point, I just hope QNX will be properly open sourced before RIM goes belly-up or is acquired by Microsoft or whatever.


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