By Luca Ventura
On March 29, telecoms company Research In Motion posted its first loss in seven years.
Tough road ahead for RIM chief Thorsten Heins
Photo Credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ
It was not what shareholders had hoped for: Just three months earlier, the Ontario company had appointed German-born Thorsten Heins as its new president and CEO, and expectations were high.
Heins can’t be blamed—he inherited a situation that was a long time in the making; nonetheless, he has a daunting task ahead. Heins, who worked at Siemens for two decades before joining RIM in 2007, must overcome stiff competition: Apple devices and those running Google’s Android software have left RIM with an 8.2% share of the global smartphone market, down from 14% a year earlier. And with RIM’s stock hovering slightly over the single-digit mark—the lowest since 2003—a sale of the once-thriving company can no longer be ruled out. But this is an option, Heins said recently, that “is not the main direction we’re pursuing right now.”
Still, skepticism of the new CEO’s ability to pull RIM back into the black is widespread. Virtually unknown to the general public, with a gaunt look and a German accent, Heins clearly understands that a leader’s personal charisma can do wonders for a company: He introduced himself to the YouTube generation with a video, and his public relations department was quick to highlight that he loves to ride motorcycles.
However, it is unlikely that these marketing efforts will turn him into an overnight superstar à la Steve Jobs, and Heins has already announced plans to leverage the BlackBerry platform through partnerships and licensing opportunities. Most important, he hopes that the launch later this year of the BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system will boost sales.
Ultimately, the survival of RIM will be decided by consumers. At the moment, Heins faces an uphill battle that will test his mettle.