Research In Motion is in save-the-ship mode. On Thursday, following a terrible quarterly report, Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said the company would focus on enterprise
markets, change several top executives, and even look into the possibility of selling parts of the mobile pioneer.
In the latest quarter, BlackBerry smartphones sales dropped 21 percent and revenue fell 19 percent. The coming line of new products, based on the next-generation BlackBerry 10 platform, is not expected to be released until later in 2012. As one part of its comeback plan, RIM's current focus on both consumers and its traditional enterprise customers is being revised, with the Canadian company returning to its business-market orientation.
A key part of the return-to-enterprise strategy is an increased emphasis on the company's Mobile Fusion product, which enables an IT department to manage a fleet of RIM, Android or Apple mobile devices.
Jim Balsillie, who had been co-CEO until recently, will step down from his position on the board and is leaving RIM. David Yach is stepping down as CTO Software, and Jim Rowan is leaving as COO of Global Operations.
Other parts of the strategy to turn the flailing company around include the possibilities of licensing its coming BlackBerry 10 platform, selling off parts of the company, or selling some of its patents. On a call with analysts Thursday, Heins said that the possibility of selling the entire company was a last resort, but he indicated it has been brought up internally.
As RIM continues to bleed revenue, market share and perception about its long-term viability, it clearly is in a race to stay afloat until it can be rescued by the next-generation BlackBerry 10 platform -- assuming that new OS lives up to expectations. But BB 10 devices are not expected to be out until the latter part of this year, a long, long wait as Apple, Android and the Microsoft-Nokia alliance do their best to grab more market share.
'Much More Serious'
We asked Ross Rubin, executive director for connected intelligence at NPD Group, if RIM's new course of actions can turn the company around. He noted that "the tone that Heins is now using, his description of the state of the company, certainly seems much more serious than when he first assumed the CEO position" a few months ago.
Heins now clearly believes that the changes RIM needs, Rubin said, are much more "substantial" than the process-oriented changes he outlined when he took over.
As it struggles to stay afloat until BB 10 devices hopefully emerge as life-savers, Rubin pointed out that RIM still has a base of support in the enterprise market.
"Even though we've seen many gains from Android devices and the iPhone among businesses," he said, "a lot of those have come into companies through personal use."
Rubin pointed out that the BlackBerry "still works closely with enterprise systems," and it's conceivable that the company could "probably sustain itself for some time" with its current enterprise base, although it's not yet clear "at what scale."