Gone are the days of Blackberry being business only.
With the rise of a new CEO who wants to stay on track with the leading markets, Blackberry maker, Research In Motion (RIM), is going for a complete overhaul of the company. RIM has recently missed new product deadlines and targets for sales, while at the same time all of their competitors in the smartphone market eagerly took their customers from them, while promising a more user-friendly experience.
The former operating chief, Thorsten Heins, wants to improve RIM’s marketing strategies and become more accessible to the casual consumer. This is a big jump for a company that defined a business product.
Four years ago, Blackberry and RIM had booming sales. This is when Thorsten Heins was recruited to work for them. Now that the company is struggling to hang on in the mobile market, with declining sales and the fast, ever-changing technology that is far ahead of what Black berry is doing, Heins is to take the lead of the Blackberry line to victory. Heins is replacing the co-CEOs, who stepped down this last weekend, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie.
Heins ensures that RIM will not see a complete overhaul, but the company will have to practice discipline in order to help itself compete. Heins is a German national who has spent most of his time at Siemens, and hinted at RIM’s ability to develop their new products on a whim, instead of with calculation. Heins wants to improve planning and scheduling of products, and better determine the use of resources. He intends to make the company more efficient. One CEO will be better able to make decisions and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Now, there will only be one head making the decisions, instead of two, which can be the cause of wishy-washy decision-making.
For much of its career, Blackberry had an enormous hold of the then-emerging data market, as it was able to provide a phone with access to corporate e-mail on a secure network. During 2007, Apple released strong competition with their iPhone and soon after Google was developing its Android software platform. With all of these unexpected changes in the mobile market, Blackberry has had a tough time getting back on its feet, overall making a slow recovery.
During 2011, Blackberry has only managed to hang onto 11% of the worldwide market of smartphones. This pales in comparison to Android’s 49% and Apple’s iOS at 18%. RIM’s stock has fallen 75% in the last 12 months and its sales have fallen a total of 6%.
That is not to say that Blackberry has completely failed in the causal smartphone market. They did have some success with their Curve and Pearl models, but these did not keep their momentum and seemed to be too little too late.
In recent months, Blackberry launched their first tablet, the Playbook, diversifying its line by allowing it to support Android apps. Although the sales of the first Playbook were less than impressive, Playbook 2 will be on the market next month, in hopes of reclaiming its position.
RIM also bought out a new operating system last year, QNX, which it will be redesigning and relaunching under its new name Blackberry 10. This will be the new operating system that will come along with a new line of smart-phones and tablets, in an attempt at a fresh image. Analysts are curious as to whether Blackberry will be able to compete with the other mobile operating systems, especially with the anticipation of the sleek Nokia Windows Phone 7 models on the rise.
Rim will have a long way to go in the mobile frontier, with a dedicated music service and greater app selection being at the top of the list of improvements required. RIM needs an iTunes equivalent to show it is a serious competitor, as well as a store that is reliable and has many users. Bringing in new users will convince app developers to find RIM as the attractive choice. This will ultimately come down to hardware. If the proper hardware does not exist, consumers will not be attracted to the apps to begin with.
Heins will have to stay true to his strategy while also maintaining RIM’s knack for business. In the meantime, investors will have to be patient with the turbulent times ahead.