Will Shakeup Produce More Interesting BlackBerry Products?

Research In Motion (RIM) is shaking up their management team by ousting co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. They are being replaced by Thorsten Heins, who has been RIM’s COO over the past four years. According to RIM, the management change is effective “immediately”.

RIM is the company behind the famous BlackBerry line of smartphones. Years back they set the standard for the use of smartphones in business communications.

But over the past year, we have watched, and reported, on the company’s spectacular bellyflop in the face of growing competition.

BlackBerry smartphones began losing much of their luster when Apple introduced the iPhone. Then Google’s Android OS also began making headway into BlackBerry’s market share.

In April last year, RIM launched the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The tablet did pretty well on its first day, 50,000 were sold. But even on the day of its launch, there were signs of trouble. Surprisingly, the tablet was simply not ready for launch. Some of the basic features that BlackBerry users expected on the tablet weren’t there. RIM promised an update with the expected features within 60 days… but that got pushed back, and then pushed back again… and, almost a year later, it’s still not available.

During the summer of 2011, several reports came out regarding BlackBerry’s declining market share. Also came news of BlackBerry cutting some 2000 jobs from its workforce. Then, as if BlackBerry needed another black eye, in October they experienced a worldwide outage of their BlackBerry network that lasted for days. Apologies and giveaways followed as they tried to keep their customer base intact.

Close to the end of 2012, RIM cut $300 off the price of their PlayBook tablet to try to goose sales in the face of growing competition from companies pushing cheap tablets. Reports on the success of that promotion are mixed.

RIM’s change of management did not come as a surprise to anyone. It’s been discussed for months. Balsillie had been at RIM for 20 years, and Lazaridis founded the Canadian-based company in 1984. So while it was expected, it is a pretty big shakeup.

The key for RIM’s future will be coming up with a product us shoppers (and business users) can get excited about. The long promised update for the PlayBook tablet will be available next month, according to RIM. And a new BlackBerry 10 operating system is scheduled to be launched late this year. But without a strong, innovative, eye-catching, product to lead the way, RIM has a tough road ahead.

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Faroh Sauder has spent more than 30 years working as a journalist and educator. He has written on politics, international affairs, civil rights, and consumer education. Now mostly retired, Faroh continues to stay current on tech and consumer issues and reports on his interests here at News For Shoppers.