Heins is new CEO at RIM as Balsillie and Lazaridis step down

23 Jan 2012

RIM's new CEO Thorsten Heins

The two co-CEOs who presided over BlackBerry maker Research in Motion’s (RIM) meteoric rise and spearheading of the smartphone a decade ago and of course its slow, steady demise in the face of competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS – Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis – have stepped down from the helm.

A new CEO, Thorsten Heins, will now take the top job at RIM, where he can either guide the former smartphone king back to a leadership position or navigate it through the choppy waters of mergers and acquisitions, where potential buyers circling RIM include Amazon and Samsung.

It’s been a fateful year for RIM. A poorly executed rollout saw its PlayBook tablet that many saw as a meaningful competitor to the iPad result in a total failure and in recent months, a global outage of the BlackBerry email network damaged the platform’s hitherto secure and reliable reputation.

In addition, investors and employees alike pleaded with RIM’s management team to overhaul RIM’s strategy in the face of a growing pool of competitors. It seemed to many outside the company that RIM had never quite gotten over its leadership position a decade ago when, at the dawn of the smartphone revolution, its BlackBerry platform set the standard for corporate communication.

The appointment of Heins signals fresh leadership and the opportunity for a strategic overhaul at the company – just what employees and investors had been calling for.

Lazaridis and Balsillie will remain with RIM as directors and significant shareholders.

Lazaridis founded RIM in 1984 with a loan from his parents.

Heins was previously one of two chief operating officers at RIM and joined the company five years ago after holding the role of chief technology officer at Siemens.

Barbara Stymiest, previously an independent director on RIM’s board, will become independent chairman of the company.

Lazaridis will serve as vice-chairman of RIM while Balsillie will serve as a board member.

Fresh thinking

Heins will need to bring fresh thinking and a fresh approach to RIM, a company that can no longer rest on its laurels.

His challenge will be to drive the success of the BlackBerry 10 operating system and salvage its PlayBook tablet strategy. At the same time, he will be weighing up various offers for the company and will need to make the right decisions to drive value for shareholders.

According to StatCounter, RIM has 13.4pc of the global market for smartphones, compared with Nokia’s Symbian OS, which has 31.5pc of the mobile OS market, Apple’s iOS which has 22.1pc and Google’s Android has 17.3pc of the global mobile OS market

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years