RIM Readies New Handsets Amid Management Debate


RIM execs believe that upcoming BlackBerry handsets hold the key to combating its current difficulties

Executives from Research In Motion faced some tough investor questioning during a 12 July annual meeting.

However co-CEO Mike Lazaridis insisted that a new crop of BlackBerry devices will ultimately help RIM triumph in the current competitive environment.

“We’re going to come out ahead,” he told the audience, according to Reuters. RIM is apparently readying seven new BlackBerry devices for release at an unspecified point.

Management Structure

But analysts and investors are still questioning – loudly – whether RIM should continue its co-CEO command structure, in which Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie oversee different aspects of the company. RIM has pledged to study the issue and report sometime in 2012.

For the three-month period between the end of February and the end of May, comScore estimated RIM’s US share dipping from 28.9 percent to 24.7 percent. During the same period, adoption of Google’s Android platform rose from 33 percent to 38.1 percent, while Apple enjoyed a slight uptick from 25.2 percent to 26.6 percent.

RIM earned some $4.9 billion (£3.07bn) in revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2012, down 12 percent from the previous quarter. Net income also declined, and RIM executives acknowledged on a 16 June earnings call that the company is undergoing a particularly turbulent period in its long history.

At the heart of the company’s issues is the ageing BlackBerry portfolio, which faces serious competition from the likes of Google Android and Apple’s iPhone. To make matters worse, those rival devices are enjoying increased adoption within businesses, traditionally RIM’s power base.

RIM has made no secret of its plans to introduce a set of “superphones” based on its QNX operating system, which currently powers the company’s PlayBook tablet. However, those devices aren’t widely expected to reach store shelves before the second half of 2012, requiring RIM to rely on BlackBerry OS 7 and upcoming devices such as the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and 9930, which were unveiled during May’s BlackBerry World conference.

20 Year Partnership

The Bold 9900 features a touch-screen display and physical QWERTY keyboard. While the device’s design aesthetic fits in neatly within RIM’s broader device portfolio, it has failed to excite analysts and mobile experts who expected the company to attempt something more radical.

During RIM’s June earnings call, Balsillie suggested that RIM would lay off employees and start the “streamlining of operations” in order to make the company more efficient.

He also defended the co-CEO arrangement, claiming that he and Lazaridis had been partners for nearly 20 years, and that, of the challenges facing RIM today, “few companies would have been able to survive, but we have.”

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