New RIM CEO admits Apple and Google are winning, says change is coming

Investors had been clamoring for Research In Motion co-founders Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to relinquish their co-CEO and co-chairman roles, and the company finally announced this past Sunday that Balsillie and Lazaridis were out, replaced by new chairperson of the board Barbara Stymiest and new chief executive officer Thorsten Heins. RIM’s stock plunged more than 13% when Heins introduced himself as the company’s new CEO, due in large part to a video interview during which he essentially told the same story RIM’s former chiefs have been telling for more than a year. The new CEO has since backed away from the company’s old it’s OK, we’re OK message while speaking to the press and analysts, however, and it is no coincidence that RIM’s stock has recovered a bit as Heins assures investors that change is brewing. Read on for more.

Moving away from what seemed to be a string of PR-approved messages, Heins admitted in a recent interview with CNBC that RIM fell behind its competition in the key U.S. market. “It hurts. It hurts me to see us losing market share in the U.S.,” Heins confessed. “There was a paradigm shift, and we did not shift with it. I know we’ve made mistakes, and I know I’m in for a fight.” Apple and Google owned a combined 75.6% of the U.S. smartphone market in the three month through November 2011 while RIM’s market share slid to 16.6% according to comScore.

The fighting spirit is what investors are looking for, and a new wave of panic swept over the Street when that spirit seemed almost completely absent in Heins’s ill-received introductory video. The new chief is changing his tune, however. “We want to stop the bleeding,” Heins told CNBC.

In a separate interview with CrackBerry.com, Heins emphasized that change is coming but stated that RIM will continue to focus on its strengths. “There is a lot of change,” the executive said. “There is a lot of structure change, there has been already a lot of change in terms of our software, our software platform, bringing QNX in. There is no standstill at any moment here at RIM. What I wanted to make clear to the market is that we believe in our own strength. We are BlackBerry, we are an integrated solution, hardware, software, services and network.”

Heins also made sure to point out that RIM is well aware of the positions its competition has taken. He explained that RIM has a team dedicated to testing competitors’ devices and he himself tests iPhones, Android handsets and other phones. RIM’s historical lack of movement when it comes to features and elements of the user experience that have driven success on competing platforms has not gone unnoticed, so Heins’s comments are refreshing if nothing else.

Where device launches are concerned, RIM has a slow year ahead. BGR exclusively revealed the company’s 2012 roadmap early this week, which is highlighted by a new 7-inch PlayBook tablet — the sequel to a slate that cost RIM $485 million last quarter — and a single BlackBerry 10 smartphone that won’t launch until late in the third quarter or early in the fourth quarter. Its new chief executive has at least begun to publicly exhibit an understanding of the new smartphone landscape that has left the company trailing its competition, however, which is something RIM has never truly done in the past.

We still have eight months or even longer to wait before RIM releases its first BlackBerry 10 smartphone but in the meantime, RIM might do well to let its new CEO speak candidly more often.

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