RIM's leadership shakeup too little, too late?

commentary The resignations of co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie and appointment of insider Thorsten Heins may not be drastic enough to help the ailing handset maker.

Thorsten Heins
Thorsten Heins, RIM's new CEO. RIM

commentary This may not have been the change people were looking for at Research In Motion.

RIM announced late tonight that its two CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, are both out of the company . Taking over is Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins, a five-year RIM executive said to have been their heir apparent.

My initial impression on Lazaridis and Balsillie getting the boot? Finally. Few other CEOs would be around after a shepherding a company through the year RIM has had. Throughout 2011, RIM has seen its stock value plunge by more than 75 percent, fumbled the introduction of its key tablet product, and saw Apple and Android mobile devices eat its lunch.

To be fair, RIM says that its two CEOs asked the board to implement the succession plan that brought in Heins. But it's clear Lazaridis and Balsillie were under massive pressure to vacate their top positions.

Getting rid of the two-CEO structure should free the company up to make more nimble moves. Hopefully, this means the start of a leaner and meaner company, particularly as the top.

But upon further review, this shakeup may not be adequate. Heins is a RIM insider. He was a part of the company's recent struggles. Rather than provide a breath of air, Heins seemingly brings the same old RIM vibe. And that's not a good thing.

RIM's new leadership

Is RIM's management change too little too late?

If RIM was going to go through the trouble of this radical transformation, why not go big? RIM needed something drastic, and this isn't it.

Still, as a new CEO, Heins will get a bit of leeway, and I'll reserve ultimate judgment until he sets his own strategy--if he has one.

The problem is, time is of the essence for RIM.

As I said before, RIM's financial shape isn't bad. The company generates a ton of revenue and still has an established position in several markets.

But a lot of these advantages are starting to fade. RIM's revenue growth is slowing, and the trajectory is seemingly doomed to keep falling. Most of its market share strength comes from countries where the BlackBerrys are lower end devices that aren't as profitable as the higher products.

In the meantime, RIM's next-generation BlackBerry phones aren't coming until the second half, a delay that is unacceptable given the frenetic pace of new devices from the competition.

Here's one strategy shift that would win Heins some points: accelerate the product schedule.

The company is trying to convince developers that the BlackBerry platform is worth investing in at a time when most of the attention is going to iOS and Android. But with the PlayBook tablet the only device out there using RIM's new platform, that interest has been modest.

Getting developers interested in the BlackBerry platform will be a big part of Heins' job as well.

Indeed, Heins will have to do a lot of convincing, making his case to consumers, investors, and developers alike.

For RIM's sake, I hope he's a good talker, and even better at execution.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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