Архив метки: Thorsten Heins

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins: “We Will Continue To Make The People That Use A BlackBerry Successful”

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Blackberry’s future is the tech debate du jour, with pundits on either side promising either a BB10 renaissance or a slow-motion tailspin. While the jury was still out, we had a few moments to speak with RIM CEO Thorsten Heins about RIM’s way forward and where BB10 was going to put the company when it launches.

He was unsurprisingly forthright and more than accommodating even when we asked him the questions any BB fan would ask today: Why should I buy a new Blackberry device?

TC: In this interview we wanted to see what was in store for the consumer, what RIM is doing to maintain the energy that a lot of the BlackBerry users currently have, especially at work or in academia. What do you see as the best way forward for those folks?

Thorsten Heins: What we are doing right now is, if you look at the installed base, specifically in enterprise, corporate and consumers worldwide, there is still a lot of phones running BlackBerry 5, mainly in Asia-Pacific. So we are still working on a program to upgrade the installed base to BlackBerry 7, which from today’s view and perspective still is competitive, and I think an exciting platform.

So we are absolutely working on our consumer and enterprise base to get us to BlackBerry 7, which is a real upgraded experience compared to 5 and 6, and to a certain extent also 6. That’s the first thing we are doing.

Second is we are working on the BB10 platform to be launched in the first quarter next year. And this is not, as I said, based on a QWERTY device, which is a device type we dominate today. This will get us back into the full touch game, and this is where we will fight hard in the U.S. to regain market share and convince consumers that, well, BlackBerry is not just a great platform for productivity or for business people; it’s a great platform for consumers as well.

We will specifically talk to those consumers that are constantly on the move or need to stay ahead and introduce them to BB10. Given the ease of adoptions for this platform it will be a great gaming experience, a great media experience, and a great content experience.

TC: It seems like BlackBerry itself has always been very specific about the email side of things. Is your vision to bring the company into more direct competition with the iOS/Android situation, or is email still paramount?

Heins: The way I look at this is that email certainly is a core element of BlackBerry, but I would put a bigger frame around this. I think this is about being extremely socially connected.

In today’s world, email is not the only way to communicate anymore: it is Twittering, Facebook, BBMing, and other means of social communication networking.

So what it really is about, I think, is to put a different frame around it and say “We keep you extremely well-connected through your various communication channels and we are making it really easy to deal with and to manage and to respond to notifications.”

TC: In terms of BB10, are you at all concerned that the time involved in releasing this update is going to affect things negatively, and especially with 7-inch iPad rumors swirling?

Heins: First, those are rumors. But as for BB10 I think this is not just a product launch, this is a whole new platform launch with a really new BlackBerry experience. So from that perspective, am I to a certain extent disappointed that we have that delay in BlackBerry 10? Yes, I would say yes.

But on the other side, I just want this to be the best user experience, the best compelling quality that people see on a BlackBerry, and I will not sacrifice this. I just want this experience to be fantastic. And that’s what we are working towards.

So knowing what we are building our BlackBerry 10 on, the product, the capabilities, the empowerment it actually gives to the people that use it, I have no concerns about our success. We will be successful.

Also if you look at the channels that we are serving, basically through the carriers, they see not just the risk anymore, I think they see reality coming that there’s a duopoly of suppliers they can work with and that they can source from right now.

They have a huge installed base of BlackBerry customers out there, they want to protect that installed base. They want them to be successful too. We get a lot of endorsement from carriers and the carrier partners globally on BlackBerry 10. So I am confident that we will make a good appearance in the rest of the world, but I am also confident that we are actually in a position to fight back in the U.S. based on the BlackBerry 10 portfolio.

TC: I guess it seems like people need a pep talk. So what would you say to the folks who say, “RIM isn’t thinking about us specifically, us early adopters, us hardcore BB users, we haven’t put down our BlackBerry since the late 90s.” What will you say to them?

Heins: The pep talk is that we will continue to make the people that use a BlackBerry successful. That is really the DNA. It just allowed people to manage their life and have a very comfortable way of communicating. And with BlackBerry 10, we will take this to a whole new level.

It’s not just about you communicating with somebody else; it’s about actually communicating with the whole network around you. So the strength in this whole social network and the strength is also in other elements that are not particularly BlackBerry elements, like gaming, because the platform supports it. We will not develop our own games, but the platform we are building allows game developers to program and to deliver really fantastic-performing games.

I myself, I use PlayBook a lot to play racing games because I can look at PlayBook from a performance perspective and say, with the highest rendering requirement, with the highest load on the graphic unit, is it a good performance, is it a good experience? And it is.

TC: And how many BlackBerrys do you carry around with you?

Heins: I have a PlayBook I use for work. I have a PlayBook that I use privately. I am on a 9900 right now. And I am using a kind of an ultra device for L-series right now, for BB10.

TC: You don’t have a secret Google Galaxy Nexus hidden in there somewhere?

Heins: What I always do is try be connected with the industry and know what’s going on there. I always have competitive devices on my desk that I check out that I work with, just to really understand what’s going on. I think this is just a good way of understanding what the industry is and where it’s headed. So we constantly do this.


RIM CEO Thorsten Heins: “We Will Continue To Make The People That Use A BlackBerry Successful”

The BlackBerry 10 Camera App Can Turn Back Time

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A camera is highly important in any smartphone.

Even since before the iPhone, the ability to snap a picture on your cell phone and essentially leave your camera at home not only changed the digital camera industry for good, but it has changed the way we look at smartphones and ultimately affects our purchasing decisions.

At RIM’s BlackBerry Jam conference this morning, the company hit us with a really interesting take on smartphone camera software. We still know very little about the hardware specs coming out of RIM later this year, but a demo of the BlackBerry camera app shows that the company is thinking about ways to wow current and potential BlackBerry users.

Thorsten Heins, the new RIM CEO, demoed the app showing that all you need to do is take a picture. From there, you actually have the ability to turn back time.

A little analog-style wheel appears on top of the picture, and you can drag a pin along the wheel backwards or forwards to move through a certain amount of time. Even though you have control over when you snap the pic, the app itself is actually capturing extra frames, just in case someone’s eyes are closed or something.

Well done, RIM.

Thanks to our sister site Engadget for the image!


The BlackBerry 10 Camera App Can Turn Back Time

It’s Time To Believe In RIM And The BlackBerry Again

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Research In Motion, maker of the once ubiquitous BlackBerry, just released its Q4 2012 earnings. They’re not good. Revenue dropped to $4.2 billion, down 19% from the third quarter. Likewise, BlackBerry sales plummeted 21% from Q3 down to 11.1M units, but surprising, PlayBook sales were way up to 500k units. One of the company’s former co-CEO’s Jim Balsillie resigned amid what we’re hearing are deep layoffs throughout the company.

This is the first set of financial data released under the new CEO, Thorsten Heins. Even though there are black clouds looming over Waterloo, as my headline states, it’s time to believe in RIM again. The conditions are right for a rebirth.

For several years RIM has been the enemy of every upstart smartphone vender and more telling, innovation itself. RIM once held a staggering piece of the smartphone market share pie, but the company failed to keep pace with Apple and Google. Now, in 2012, a BlackBerry made today, looks, feels and works too similarly to one from five years ago.

RIM failed to curate a proper development ecosystem. The company launched the BlackBerry app store too late and failed to capitalize on the emergence of pure touchscreen devices. The BlackBerry PlayBook was a predictable failure thanks to its lack of core features and late arrival. The company even failed to oust its naive CEOs until just recently. In short RIM doesn’t know how to conduct business in a timely manner.

RIM is unique in the smartphone race. Its success is dictated by hardware sales and also services. Google and Apple know this. iOS and Android devices have been sneaking into RIM’s enterprise market since they were announced. But try as they might for years, they have failed to kick BlackBerrys out of the corner office. RIM’s platform is still the service of choice for many corporations, although that may change just this year.

IT managers and CTOs have stuck with RIM because of familiarity and the cost to change. Much like myself and most of you, they don’t care if one platform dominates over another. These IT managers do not want to see a product die just for the hell of it. They simply want a product that works and keeps the IT service calls down to a minimum. If RIM can keep moving forward at a steady pace — that’s a big “if” — they’ll retain many of these lucrative contracts. If RIM can deliver BB 10 devices on time — that’s an even bigger “if” — then the company might actually regain lost market share.

Thankfully for RIM, smartphone innovation has slowed drastically recently. Android and iOS are turning to novelties like bigger screens and silly voice controls to sell more devices. RIM couldn’t keep up with these platform’s product churn during their roaring early days. Since smartphone development has seemingly plateaued lately, RIM should be able to show up with competitive products that match the current standard feature set.

RIM’s days of ruling both the consumer and enterprise market are likely in the past. Products that are equally innovative and trendy are key to winning consumers. The upcoming BlackBerry 10 products look to be innovative enough although they’ll probably be far from trendy.

BlackBerry fanboys still exist. They’re out there and love their Bolds and Curves. There still isn’t a better email/messaging device than a BlackBerry. I would go back to a BlackBerry in a hot second if they had a similar feature set as an Android device. Much like Windows Phones now, BlackBerrys have always been about core features over apps. The company has also pretty much ignored the importance of apps. In fact the company’s managers seem ignorant on the matter.

With today’s earnings report, RIM is likely (hopefully) at the bottom. Its stock price is at its lowest point in nine years. Deep cuts (which seem to be happening) and a renewed focus on core values are needed. They need to stop blaming the press for their problems and not run crying to my editors when I joke that their execs spend more time golfing than working. (Note: That really happened. We all had a good chuckle.) It’s one thing not to champion a company anymore, only ignorant fanboys want to see a company simply die.

RIM is hopefully taking notes from Nokia’s recent resurgence. It wasn’t that long ago that Nokia was labeled as a has-been. Now Nokia is riding on a wave of novel products running a still-obscure operating system. RIM can, and hopefully will, do the same thing with BlackBerry 10 devices later this year.

For what it’s worth, the new CEO, Thorsten Heins, seems surprisingly open to any opportunity that could help turn the ailing company around. During RIM’s earnings conference call this afternoon, he reaffirmed to listeners that as part of his “strategic review,” he will consider options like licensing the the BlackBerry 10 operating system (even though no one knows what it looks like yet). Hell, when asked about the possibility of selling the company, he said he would consider it if his review pointed to it as a viable option, though he was quick to note that it’s not exactly Plan A.

RIM is beaten and laying on the floor. Together, Apple and Google knocked out the champ. Since then, they’ve started fighting each other, seemingly ignoring RIM as regains his strength. He might take another blow from time to time, but with a renewed focus he should stay on his feet from here on out. After years of savage beatings, he’s like the honey badger now and just doesn’t care.

(Chris Velazco contributed to this report)


It’s Time To Believe In RIM And The BlackBerry Again

RIM Co-CEOs To Step Down; COO To Take The Reins

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I suppose some might have seen this coming. In December, Research In Motion (RIM) released their third quarter earnings, which were yet another disappointment for the struggling maker of BlackBerry. RIM Co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis announced subsequently that they would only draw yearly salaries of $1 to help combat the company’s financial woes.

Today, it seems the pressure has become too great, and a management shuffle is under way. The Globe has reported that the co-CEOs, after a year of pressure from investors and stockholders, have stepped down from the position. Company insider and current COO Thorsten Heins will be replacing them as the new chief executive.

Lazaridis and Balsillie have both led the Waterloo-based company for decades, as Lazardis founded RIM back in 1984 and later brought on Balsillie. Balsillie stepped down from his role as Chairman in 2007, but retained his position as co-CEO along with Lazaridis. Today, the founder will become vice chairman of the board along with chair of the board’s new “Innovations Committee”, and Balsillie will remain a board member — but with no functional operating role in RIM going forward, according to Bloomberg.

RIM Director Barbara Stymiest is to take over as chairman of the board, and Thorsten Heins, the current COO is now the top dog. Heins joined RIM four years ago from Siemens AG, where he was the CTO.

The struggles of the Canadian mobile device maker have been well-documented. BlackBerries reached a point of ubiquity over the last decade, especially in corporate environments, but RIM has had a difficult time keeping pace with Apple and the meteoric rise of Android. The company has also struggled to produce a viable tablet alternative, with sales of its PlayBook declining — it shipped 150,000 of these devices, the company said in its third quarter earnings, down from 200,000 in Q2.

Since laying off 2,000 employees in July of last year, RIM has gotten aggressive with its promotions and price cuts for PlayBook, but the competition continues to eat into the company’s market share, as its portion of the smartphone market dipped to 11 percent — down from 15 percent the previous year.

It’s been a very rocky road for RIM, and really it’s a sad story to watch unfold, as RIM has been one of the most valuable companies in Canada, and has ranked in the country’s top 100 employers. It also experienced one of its worst outages in history in October, and some of its top investors pushed the company to split up its co-CEO leadership last summer, which was later withdrawn.

Now, it seems, RIM’s investors have finally gotten their way, and RIM has opted to replace the Co-CEOs with an insider. Heins was previously the chief operating officer for product and sales, a position he took in August, charged with overseeing engineering, hardware and software.

In a statement released by RIM tonight, the founder said of Heins’ appointment:

There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership. Jim and I went to the Board and told them that we thought that time was now. With BlackBerry 7 now out, PlayBook 2.0 shipping in February and BlackBerry 10 expected to ship later this year, the company is entering a new phase, and we felt it was time for a new leader to take it through that phase and beyond. Jim, the Board and I all agreed that leader should be Thorsten Heins.

Even though he has the full support of Balsillie, Lazaridis, and the board, Heins has a tough road ahead. Sure, many are hoping that he can help RIM turn itself around, myself included, but both RIM and Heins will have to assure investors, customers, and everyone in between, that he is not operating in the shadow of the former CEOs and will be given the necessary room to implement structural and product changes, and start catalyzing the growth and development that can help them regain lost ground.

In terms of potential for RIM moving forward, Heins said in a statement that the company still has a strong balance sheet, with $1.5 billion in cash at the end of last quarter, and little to no debt. Revenues were $5.2 billion in the third quarter, and it’s undeniable that RIM has a strong BlackBerry subscriber base — currently over 75 million.

If RIM can gain some traction with PlayBook 2.0 and BlackBerry 10, there may be a silver lining. RIM gave a sneak peak of PlayBook 2.0 at CES this year, and Devin included the company in our list of winners for this year’s CES, saying that they’re still showing that they are a “force to be reckoned with in some respects”, and that the “PlayBook is a far better tablet than it was, and that Google and Apple should take a look at some of their clever and powerful gesture and UI work”. Let’s just hope it’s not too late.

BlackBerry 10 has been delayed, leading many to speculate that there have been some problems with its development, in integrating that software with its global network, but Heins hinted to the New York Times that he wants to see BlackBerry 10 released at some point this year. After 18 months in development, it seems clear that RIM has been handicapped in its decision-making process, and unfortunately, it puts all the more pressure on the new OS to shine when it arrives. They missed with the first release of PlayBook, and have been scrambling to iterate quickly. Devin’s impressions show that it may be working, but initial poor reviews may have put the kibosh on that one.

At least it seems more determined now to play to the concerns of its detractors, rather than ignoring the problems. This may instill some confidence going forward, and with Heins in the big chair, it looks like stay-the-course is RIM’s new motto, and those buyout rumors will quiet down — at least for now.

As an addendum, I’ll say that it’s interesting to note that RIM released this news right in the midst of the NFC Championship — a highly watched TV event and one that sparks an enormous amount of coverage in traditional media and on the Web. (More here.)

Keep an eye on RIM’s stock tomorrow.

We will continue updating.


RIM Co-CEOs To Step Down; COO To Take The Reins