If BlackBerry 10 is a hit, a lot of credit will go to RIMís founders
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RIM: If BB10 is a hit, a lot of credit will go to Lazaridis, Balsillie | FP Street | News | Financial Post
If BlackBerry 10 is a hit, a lot of credit will go to RIMís founders
The corporate reboot at Research in Motion Ltd. marks its first anniversary today. The tech giantís beleaguered stock price has been on an absolute tear of late ó up 14% since last week to burst the $18 range and a whopping 170% appreciation from its 52-week low of $6.10 last September.
Meanwhile, the much-anticipated and often-delayed BlackBerry10 operating system is finally set to be unveiled on Jan. 30 ó a hard deadline that had eluded the troubled company for two years.
Even Wall Street, which had taken a much more jaundiced view of RIM long before investors began agitating for change at the Waterloo, Ont.-based company, is softening its hardline view. Last week, influential U.S. analyst Peter Misek advised investors to buy RIM stock rather than sit on the fence.
Could it be that against seemingly insurmountable odds, Thorsten Heins, the 55-year-old low-profile tech executive who was plunked into the corner office at RIM after a radical overhaul of management, is pulling off one of the greatest turnarounds in Canadian corporate history?
Not quite, or at least not yet anyway.
The launch of the next-generation software operating system, which bedevilled co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, is the ticket to whether RIM reclaims a healthy stake in the smartphone market, or at least becomes a more expensive takeover target than it was 12 months ago.
In fact, the BlackBerry brand has been debased so much, it has become synonymous with failure. The wireless devices, once so wildly popular, have fallen out of favour and mostly replaced with iPhones and Android devices. RIM, which once commanded 20% of the market, has seen sales of the once ubiquitous BlackBerry fall year-over-year for the past six quarters, leaving it with about 5%.
Clearly, the launch of the BB10 software should be the final word on whether RIM thrives or merely scrambles to survive. Unfortunately, RIM has been a company prone to public relations gaffes. Much of the negative sentiment around the former tech darling, especially in 2011, was sparked by the underwhelming launch and poor performance of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet computer, a device that was supposed to be RIMís answer to rival Appleís iPad.
A radical management overhaul was needed to clear out RIMís executive suite as shareholders lost confidence in the two foundersí abilities to innovate and manage the company. Out the door went Lazaridis and Balsillie and in came Heins, who was hand-picked by his outgoing predecessors.
In January 2012, Heins inherited a broken vessel of empty promise, mammoth investor losses, a crippling service outage and an unprecedented slashing of tens of thousands of jobs. A former Siemens AG executive, Heins played key roles in the creation of RIMís products from the time he joined the company in 2007, when he was a senior vice-president for hardware engineering and later chief operating officer for product sales.
Not surprising, the consensus at the time was that RIM merely put a new face on an old strategy.
A year later, thatís exactly what it looks like. Heinsí master turnaround plan doesnít involve breaking the company apart and selling it off in pieces. Rather, heís pushed forward transitioning RIMís devices to a new BB10 operating system, modelled and built on the QNX software that powers the BlackBerry PlayBook.
Itís hardly radical. The plan is the old strategic blueprint taken straight out of his predecessorsí playbook.
Before their departures, Lazaridis and Balsillie insisted the new operating system would reverse RIMís losing fortunes. Investors, analysts and consumers didnít believe them. What RIM needed was a new messenger perhaps more than a new message. If the surging share price is an indication, Heins appears to have succeeded, at least in that regard.
So far, the initial feedback from the handful of carriers who have tested the BB10 operating system have been surprisingly ó and resoundingly ó positive. That alone is something RIM hasnít enjoyed for a very long time.
So if the companyís failing fortunes are indeed reversed starting with the Jan. 30 rollout, who will ultimately get the credit? After all, much of the internal plumbing of the BB10 was put together through a series of small, lesser-known but crucial acquisitions by Heinsí much-maligned predecessors.
If Lazaridis, who is vice-chairman at RIM, and Balsillie (who has severed all ties to the company) were right, the difference may be that Heins simply walked the talk.
Even so, the prolonged delays and the reputational damage of the past two years may have stacked the odds against a meaningful comeback. Peter Misek, the Wall Street analyst who sparked the recent runup on RIMís stock, cautions in a research report that the BB10ís realistic chances of success are slim ó in the 20% to 30% range.
Those arenít great odds, no matter whoís calling the shots.
- 01-22-13, 03:21 AM #4
Obviously, and I have always maintained, Mike and Jim are no idiots. They built the company, and the entire smartphone industry, from the ground up. They made smart acquisitions. But.
Let's not forget. Mike and Jim did not go out and get QNX ; Dan Dodge convinced them to buy it.
I'm very glad Mike is still a part of the company that was his dream. He is a brilliant, and, more importantly, good man.
BlackBerry 10 would not have come to market under Mike and Jim : the. company was bloated, morale was many fathoms below bad, some have said that initiative was discouraged by the abysmal management structure that had taken root, public perception was of a once dynastic and proud company which had become the punchline to it's own joke.
Thor, singlehandedly and tirelessly changed all that. Continues to change all that. He chopped at the deadwood, he streamlined, he introduced an efficient management structure with clear chain-of-command, accountability, encouraging dedication, initiative and creativity.
He has been the harsh taskmaster. He has been the ego-massaging cheerleader. He filled key positions with capable people. He stepped into the spotlight and put a human, accessible, confident face on RIM. He took responsibility for the mistakes of the past. He learned on the run. He has been everywhere.
He has not been afraid to say, "This isnít good enough. ". He shoots straight. He is the anti-Jobs : humble,confident, open, flexible.
Mike and Jim are great men who brought the company an incalculable distance, laid the groundwork for the future. Thor stepped into the breach when the war was all-but -lost, rallied the troops, and is about to take that hill
Without Mike and Jim, BB 10 would not exist. Without Thor it would have died in the womb.
A salute to them all.!!
Last edited by G-bone; 01-22-13 at 03:23 AM. Reason: Spelling
- 01-22-13, 04:08 AM #7
Put another way : I've never seen any hubris in Mike.
However, Jim had his day, did a lot for the company, and I think that he believed in everything he did.
So, to Mike and Jim is dedicated the first part of my signature.
To Thor, is the second.
- 01-22-13, 04:15 AM #8
I think its pretty clear that QNX and Thorsten are responsible. Yes credit is due for actually buying them (companies) but I believe RIM didn't have a clue as to what to do before and without QNX. QNX brought a lot to the table like Qt and without Qt I don't think we'd have Cascades/TAT. And lets not forget Alec S. man that guy deserves a ton of respect and credit.
- CrackBerry Genius
01-22-13, 04:21 AM #9
- 4,279 Posts
I say we give credit to the entire organization, both past and present members. Assuming the launch goes smoothly, everyone will have done their part, working long hours and giving up part of their weekends to finally bring BB10 to market.
- 01-22-13, 04:42 AM #10
YES! I agree, some of you are more eloquently spoken than I and I salute your coments.
I will add that It took JIM and Mike's foresight to pick Thor and get out before it was to late!
Many will say they waited to long but in this case hind sight is not 20/20 and thats something we'll never know for sure. When this turn around is complete we can be assured they made the right choice!
Edit; I'll add that long after RIMs future is secure, I look forward to hearing form both of them!
- 01-22-13, 04:42 AM #11
Even so, I saw plenty of hubris on Jim's side, exemplified in the arrogant way he tried to steamroller the NHL in his attempt to buy and move the Phoenix Coyotes. Jim was instrumental in getting RIM to the top of the mountain, sure, but I think he drove them off the cliff, too.
- CrackBerry Addict
01-22-13, 04:49 AM #12
- 591 Posts
I'm not saying the overall sentiment of the article is wrong. RIM definately needed to change the top guys and get someone in to "walk the talk", even if it was his predecessors who stacked everything into place (purchasing different companies to move to the next level at RIM).
But the article has several (un-necessary) backhanded complements in it, and I'm not so sure that anyone should take too much away from what Thorsten has accomplished.
Balsillie in particular (in my eyes) did so much damage to the brand by simply openning his mouth without the actual functionalities in the product to back up his claims... not to mention his overly optimistic view on timescales.
Unfortunately, this part of the article >>>
Anyway, thanks for the link BBPandy, it was an interesting read.
- 01-22-13, 07:25 AM #15
- 01-22-13, 10:22 PM #18
- 01-22-13, 10:23 PM #19
- CrackBerry Abuser
01-22-13, 11:11 PM #20
- 366 Posts
Re: If BlackBerry 10 is a hit, a lot of credit will go to RIMís founders
and it depends a lot upon how things are interpreted. Steve Jobs could say anything from. 7 inch ipad is a non starter, no need for a front facing camera......whatever apple didn't have he stated wasn't important and he was never held to account. Mike and jim on the other hand were taken at face value, versus smoke and mirrors for what they said. nice to finally see a bit of a turnaround in media sentiment. and although it has been said many times, Apple once too was on the ropes and a laughing stock. course Rim's turnaround will be the turnaround of the century or other such media short sightedness. someone needs to take credit for the qnx purchase. the timing might have been off but it was the right move.
- CrackBerry Abuser
01-22-13, 11:50 PM #22
- 129 Posts
The old management had too much hubris and almost paid for it with the death of RIM.
Thor has done an amazingly outstanding job. He has delivered and then some.
I can't think of a single metric that he didn't exceed analyst expectations on.
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