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BlackBerry bosses booted to revive RIM

BlackBerry bosses Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down from leadership of Research in Motion.

BlackBerry bosses Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis are out in a shake-up to revitalise the ailing brand. The two chiefs of Research in Motion, the Canadian outfit that makes BlackBerry smart phones, are making way for a new head honcho after a tough year for the company.

Laziridis and Balsillie will be replaced by current Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Heins, but will remain on the board. Heins is an engineer, which seems an odd choice: we'd argue BlackBerry's problem is brand perception rather than engineering issues.

It was Steve Jobs' understanding of premium branding that drove the iPhone's design, which transformed the world of mobile phones -- a disruption Laziridis and Balsillie never recovered from.

Balsillie and Lazaridis have been criticised for a string of disasters in 2011, such as the failure of the BlackBerry PlayBook and the spectacular week-long BlackBerry outage in October.

RIM was also embarrassed by a forced name change for its great white hope, the QNX-based next generation of BlackBerry software rechristened BlackBerry 10 after it emerged the original name BBX was trademarked by someone else.

More crucially, BlackBerry 10 phones have been delayed until much later in the year, when they were expected early in 2012. With Nokia storming back into the smart phone market and backing Windows Phone, now is not a time for Research in Motion to delay if it wants to maintain its position.

One possible strategy is for RIM to embrace the younger BlackBerry owners who use BlackBerry Messenger, ditching the keyboards and coming up with some funkier, more playful phones.

Does BlackBerry have a future? Can RIM reverse the BlackBerry decline? What should Thor Heins' first move be? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.