We just came from a briefing at BlackBerry World 2012 (don't forget to check out our keynote coverage) here in Orlando where RIM CEO Thorsten Heins took a rare moment to speak directly to the press. He explained RIM's current stance, why he didn't know there was so much turmoil within the company before he took his role as chief executive officer and much more.
Dealing with Turmoil At RIM
Heins said RIM originally lost its focus as the company began to expand and grow. "We needed focus," he said. "When I joined in 2007, within three years, we grew it to 20,000 people. That's humungous business growth. What happens to a company when you do this, you really want to conquer the world, you begin to lose line of site and the efficiency of the organization. You grow so fast that everything becomes an opportunity that you want to pursue because everything is so exciting."
Finding Its Core
Heins said that he began questioning what the exact core of RIM really was. He looked into his target audience and decided that BlackBerry users are typically those that "want to succeed." He wasn't specific on exactly who that is, but did note that this applies to both consumers and the enterprise. "It is absolutely not true that RIM will leave the consumer business," Heins explained, turning to articles that were written following the company's recent earnings call. "We will be extremely strong in enterprise but we will be as strong in consumer. It's a big part of our business and a very attractive part of our business."
"I want to provide a fantastic mobile computing engine and platform and then I want to augment this with just attractive consumer application services. Did you see the gaming stuff yesterday? That was so intriguing. RIM is not a gaming company, let's face it. RIM is not a maps company. Why should I focus on this? It is not the core, but I need it. I can do this with partnerships."
Slimming Down First, Cutting Fat
Heins also reiterated that RIM has a "little fat on the hips," and that he needs to turn the company and evolve it into a "lean, mean hunting machine." "We're looking at our management structure, how deep is the hierarchy, what's the accountability system?" he explained. "RIM is a fantastic collaborative company. The issue is it doesn't scale for a $20 billion company." Heins said that he's currently in the process of hiring a new chief operating officer and a new chief marketing officer and that RIM will have exciting announcements on both fronts soson.
BlackBerry 10 – Achieving "Mission Impossible"
Discussing BlackBerry 10, Heins said "the teams did something that many of us would describe as "the mission impossible." We flew people from sweden, kept them in our development center, they left their family for weeks. Lots of sacrifice from employees in getting this done. We demoed the first prototype yesterday but we're nearing completion. This is not the BlackBerry 10 final OS. It uses all of the application frameworks that BB10 will support. This is about the application framework, not the OS underneath. The objective of the prototype is the application framework, to get this prototype out there so we have enough meat around the bone when BB10 finally goes out." He's confident BlackBerry 10 will be a success, because it's already running incredibly well.
"When the team came to me a few weeks ago with the first software blocks I was looking at, it was really the first raw developer device, what intrigued me the most – there was no stuttering on a high-res screen, no freezing, no hour glassing, all demos without any hiccup. That gave me the big deal of confidence that this platform is rock solid and that we have something in our hands we can really build a future on."
"We are nearing completion of BB10," Heins said, noting that the company is still on schedule to get the new OS out the door this year. "I know the schedule and I'll stick to the guns right now. I want BB10 to be perfect. The little glimpse yesterday is all the new stuff but there's much more to come in BB10. The most important thing is to make sure this flow really works across all applications that run all of the time in the background. They don't get stopped, they don't get halted. You have everything at your fingertips at the real time. That's why we needed this QNX multithreaded OS."
RIM Won't Ditch the Physical Keyboard
If you're worried that RIM had any thought of ditching the physical keyboard, don't be. "We've focused a lot on the typing experience on a touch BlackBerry," Heins said. "We want the typing experience on the BlackBerry to be the best in the world, be it a physical keypad or a touch keyboard. We are the best physical keypad on the planet and we don't want to give this up. People still love the hardware reaction of a physical keypad. We're looking forward to build a BB10 portfolio that's the objective, get it out this year, WOW the community, make our customers happy."
Committed to BlackBerry 7 – BlackBerry 10 a "Mobile Computing Platform"
Heins said he's still committed to BlackBerry 7 as a smartphone base but that BlackBerry 10 apps will not be backwards compatible. BlackBerry 10, he said, is a mobile computing platform while BlackBerry 7 will be used for emerging markets and other entry-level handsets. Speaking of mobile computing, Heins also said that a 4G version of the PlayBook will launch later this year. Enterprise users will get the device first, followed by consumers.
We're refreshed to know that Heins admitted he has an uphill battle in the United States, but it's clear now that he believes his company can succeed. We're impressed with what we've seen with BlackBerry 10 so far, but it's now all going to be a question of timing.