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Five things BlackBerry's new CEO needs to do, and fast

Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are moving on -- here's five things we think BlackBerry needs to do next to battle Android and Apple.

BlackBerry's two chiefs, Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie -- the Laurel and Hardy double-act of the mobile world -- are being replaced by RIM's chief operating officer, Thorsten Heins.

Thorsten has his work cut out to turn the once mighty mobile tanker around and catch up with the likes of Android and iOS. Here's our take on the five things Thorsten really needs to do, and fast.

1. Make BlackBerry 10 insanely great

Swapping CEOs is all well and good, but there's no substitute for a decent operating system. BlackBerry's recent woes can be traced back to an OS that's way too long in the tooth. RIM has tried to spruce up the BlackBerry OS by taking a few trips to the dentist for some shiny veneers -- but mobile users haven't been taken in by this cosmetic bling. Nothing less than a whole new OS will do to compete with the likes of Android and iOS.

Heins' priority number one is therefore to get BlackBerry 10 out the door with as few delays as possible. The sooner the better. Rushing out a half-baked, buggy OS won't wash either. Nothing less than "insanely great" is the order of the day. No pressure, Thorsten.

2. Purge the portfolio

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple after years in exile, he brought with him a giant red marker pen -- and got busy slashing the number of products the company was churning out. "Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do," was Jobs' mantra -- and that laser-like focus is now the envy of the tech world.

Heins needs to wield his own marker pen and purge RIM's cluttered portfolio. Identikit BlackBerrys that differ only by the amount of chrome trim they have aren't going to win the smart phone war. RIM needs to focus on a few great devices and kill off all those boring, plasticky also-rans.

3. Ditch the teens

And talking of plasticky, BlackBerrys are way too cheap. Low-priced hardware may win you fans in gangland among those who like to use BBM to organise riots, but it's not going to up your brand cache with the civilised majority. Being the handset of choice for teens is frankly a poisoned chalice -- they may convince themselves that they'll remain as unchanged as Twilight's vampires, but all too soon they've left school and jettisoned their sticker-clad BlackBerry for something more sleek.

Heins needs to make BlackBerry cool again -- and making gadgets an object of aspirational lust usually means making them unaffordable for teenagers. Fewer, more expensive BlackBerrys should be on Heins' mind. Sorry kids.

4. Stop being boring

Another problem is design. Look at BlackBerry handsets through the ages (and it is ages, the company was founded in 1984), and you'd be hard-pressed to see much difference between BlackBerrys then and now. RIM likes to claim that's because the BlackBerry is a 'design classic' but that just sounds like an excuse for 'we couldn't be bothered to change it'.

BlackBerrys may have looked great years ago, but so did mullets. Heins really needs to sign up a new design team to give RIM's hardware the radical haircut it really deserves.

5. Lose the Qwerty keyboards

RIM's love affair with keyboards has long been an embarrassment. Go back a few years and Lazaridis could be heard jawing off about how Qwerty keyboards were the best thing since sliced bread -- not to mention claiming that touchscreens were as useful as a chocolate teapot. How wrong can you be?

Even last year, BlackBerry's less-than-dynamic leadership duo was boasting that RIM makes the best keyboards in mobileville, which is like telling your Ferrari-owning neighbour you've got a really, really fast horse in your garage.

So RIM needs to take its pile of Qwerty keyboards into the back yard and blow them sky high. It's time for Heins to get in touch with his inner touchscreen -- and kill the keyboard inside.