Research In Motion underwent a massive shakeup Jan. 22, with longtime co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepping aside in favor of Thorsten Heins, who now assumes the titles of both president and CEO.
According to a statement issued by RIM, Lazaridis will become vice chair of RIM’s board, as well as chair of the board’s newly created innovation committee. That statement also suggested he will work closely with Heins “to offer strategic counsel, provide a smooth transition and continue to promote the BlackBerry brand worldwide.” It remains to be seen how much influence he exerts in his new role.
Meanwhile, Balsillie will apparently remain a member of the board. Barbara Stymiest, previously a member of the Royal Bank of Canada’s Group Executive, has been named independent board chair; rumors of her becoming RIM’s next chairperson have circulated since early January.
Heins is a company insider, having joined RIM from Siemens Communications Group in 2007. After a stint as senior vice president for hardware engineering, he became RIM’s chief operating officer for product and sales in August 2011.
Once a dominant smartphone maker, RIM in recent quarters has seen its market share tumble in the face of aggressive competition from the likes of Apple’s iOS and Google Android. One of Heins’ first public statements alluded to the challenges facing the company as it attempts to adjust to this shifting paradigm: “We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result.”
By the end of 2012, RIM plans on issuing an all-new line of devices running the next-generation BlackBerry 10 operating system. In addition, it will issue a long-awaited software update for its BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablet in February.
Until those BlackBerry 10 devices arrive, RIM will depend on its product line running BlackBerry OS 7 to hold the market share line against competitors. For some time, RIM executives have characterized the company’s current period as a “transition.” It’s now seemingly up to Heins to see this period through.