ORLANDO, Fla.Mixed in with the drama and hoopla that typically surrounds BlackBerry World, a steely determination was clearly apparent at the heart of Research In Motion.
RIM may have beenhaving parties and the usual giveaways for the faithful at BlackBerry World here, but its purpose was deadly serious: reverse BlackBerrys decline in the United States and make the company once again a major player in the world of wireless devices. To accomplish this, CEO Thorsten Heins said that in effect he had to remake the company and get rid of what he called consensus without action.
Heins and other RIM executives are working hard to ensure that their customers and the financial community comprehend the level of commitment at RIM. And theyre working hard so their customers know that something big is coming, if only they can wait.
When a company grows as fast as RIM has grownadding 20 thousand people in three yearsHeins said its hard to stay focused. You want to cover everything, you lose the efficiency of the organizations, he said. Everything is an opportunity you want to pursue. There are opportunities that are challenging and are exciting to do. But he said that trying to do everything at once ultimately leads to doing less. How well is the organization running? We have a little fat on the hips, he said. We need to be a lean, mean hunting machine.
Were looking at the management structure. How deep is it? Who is accountable? Heins said that the management complexity meant that a lot of things didnt get done, so he revised RIMs management structure to be more efficient. He noted that where RIM once had four COOs (of which he was one) the company now has one person in that position. He noted that he is personally recruiting a new superstar head of marketing, and hes cleaned up the entrenched bureaucracy in development.
The innovation was there, Heins said, but it needed focus and direction. We had a too complex management structure in RIM, but we’ve changed this, and there are more changes to come.
Heins also noted that some of the rumors surrounding developments at RIM have been incorrect. He said theyre not abandoning the consumer market. Nor is RIM turning its back on physical keyboards that have been the RIM hallmark.BlackBerry 10 devices will have physical keyboards for some but not all models. Furthermore, RIM is considering licensing BlackBerry OS 10.
In a private interview, RIMs Senior Vice President of Software Product ManagementAndrew Bocking said the consumer market is very important to RIM, but that it isnt the companys core business. For this reason, Bocking said, RIM is working with partners to deliver the consumer apps and games that those users want.
RIM Puts Strong Focus on Recruiting Developers
But Bocking also noted that RIM already has a large collection of apps that will run on BlackBerry 10 devices. Existing PlayBook apps will work on BlackBerry 10, he said. Those need to adapt to a slightly smaller screen and portrait first orientation, he added. He said new app submissions are up significantly since the announcement of BB10. We had our best ever quarter last quarter for app submissions, Bocking said, adding that the numbers were up 240 percent for QNX apps for the PlayBookall apps that can easily be tweaked for BB10 devices, he noted.
Bocking also said that RIM is considering licensing BlackBerry OS 10 for a variety of devices, not so much for makers of handheld devices such as HTC or Samsung, but for embedded and automotive devices. Earlier Heins had noted that 60 percent of the cars on the road use QNX software, and Bocking said that these devices could support BB10.
Bocking said interest in developing for QNX and BlackBerry 10 is growing rapidly. He said developers are finding that BlackBerry users are willing to pay for their apps instead of expecting them to be free. He also said developers appreciate the fact that BlackBerry App World effectively eliminates piracy and that it gives them an effective way to monetize their efforts over a very large global user base.
BlackBerry is growing worldwide, Heins noted, and while its losing market share in the U.S., thats not the case in other regions. In some areas, Heins said, RIM is able to position BlackBerry devices to compete effectively with feature phones by offering less expensive, much more basic devices than the company sells in North America and Western Europe.
While Bocking wouldnt say publically exactly how many apps will be in BlackBerry App World when the BlackBerry 10 devices appear, he did say that the numbers will be substantial. He noted that RIM is working closely with developers to give them the tools they need to develop for the device, including providing devices for developers to use, as was the case at BlackBerry Jam, the developers conference that happened concurrently with BlackBerry World in Orlando. We are treating our external developers as if they were internal by making sure they have early access, Bocking said.
Of course, its impossible to know for sure whether the efforts of Heins, Bocking and others will be able to reverse the slide that BlackBerry has suffered due to the mismanagement by the previous team. But at least from the outside, it does seem that they recognize their problems and have a plan for overcoming them. This alone should be good news for RIM.