RIM finally made the move so many shareholders and industry watchers had been waiting for. Today they announced that co-CEOs Mike and Jim were stepping down from the shared post and that Thorsten Heins had been installed as the new President and CEO.
To quote former NBA not-so-great Derrick Coleman, “Whoop-de-damn-do.”
RIM needed to clean house, bring in some fresh blood, and escape from the insulated corporate culture that’s essentially had them ducking their heads in the sand and singing, “La la la la, we can’t hear you,” ever since the first iPhone rocked the industry back in ’07. An industry RIM’s BlackBerrys once ruled. Instead they promoted an insider to the CEO role, an insider who’s been as directly responsible as any non-CEO for the demise of BlackBerry smartphones since he joined the company in 2009. In case you didn’t know, Thorsten Heins served as Chief Operating Officer, Product Engineering before today’s promotion to the tippy-top of the organization. That means he oversaw all of the phones RIM brought to market during the period that saw BlackBerrys go from king of the hill to, well, the Storm 3.
The company also saw not to kick their bumbling co-CEOs to the curb, but instead slide them into newly titled but barely less influential positions in the organization. Darren Murph over at Engadget said it better than I could in his editorial from earlier this morning:
Have a listen at this: Mike is hanging around as the Vice Chair of RIM’s Board and Chair of the Board’s new Innovation Committee. You heard right — the guy who has outrightly failed to innovate at anything in the past handful of years is now championing an innovation committee. Sounds right up his alley, no? Jim’s staying put as an outright director, and if you think anyone at RIM is going to brush aside the input of the founders, you’re wrong. Jim and Mike may have new titles, but they’re still here, and I have no reason to believe that they’ll act radically different going forward than they have in the past.
Right. That’s gonna help.
RIM’s screwed. Their outright demise might come this year, or it might take several years to fully manifest, but they’re done. Maybe they can hang on as a provider of last-gen QWERTY-fied smartphones to emerging markets and budget providers in the U.S., but it’s hard for me to see much future beyond that. To draw a parallel, another fallen giant of the mobile industry, Nokia, made some huge moves over the past 12 months in an effort to claw their way back to the top. They brought an outsider in to run the company, made a deal with devil himself in embracing Microsoft and their Windows Phone OS, and designed a flagship device specifically for the U.S. market. Succeed or fail, at least Nokia’s trying.
What’s RIM doing? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I’m no financial advisor, but here’s some free advice to RIM shareholders: Dump your stock. Now. Put the money into a company with a future, like Apple or Google or Samsung. The folks in Waterloo just proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have no interest in actually becoming competitive in today’s mobile marketplace. They seem to want nothing more than to play musical titles in a thinly veiled attempt to keep their top execs cushy and comfy while their shareholders and loyal users flail in the cold Canadian wind.
[Cartoon Credit: Marco.org]