Heins Says Big Changes Are Planned For RIM

New Research In Motion (RIM) CEO Thorsten Heins disclosed his plans for reviving the struggling BlackBerry brand in an interview Friday with Bloomberg, and placed revamped U.S. marketing efforts, a richer app ecosystem, and potential software licensing at the top of his list.

Heins, who was appointed CEO last week as part of a succession plan outlined by RIM’s former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, said the company’s share in emerging and global mobile markets remains strong, but that BlackBerry adoption within the United States has been slipping over the past few years. As a means to boost its share of the U.S. market, Heins said RIM will begin a campaign with U.S. carriers next week intended to spark consumer interest in its latest BlackBerry 7 smartphones.

"We have to do something dramatically different in the U.S. to get our market share back," Heins said in the interview. "I’m here to fight. I’m here to win."

According to statistics published in November by market analyst comScore, BlackBerry accounts for 16.9 percent of the mobile U.S. market share, trailing significantly behind Apple’s 29 percent and even further from Android’s 47 percent. RIM’s recent decline stemmed primarily from the onslaught of consumer-oriented devices, such as the iPhone, being used in the enterprise – a market once dominated by the BlackBerry brand.

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Aware of this "consumerization of IT" trend, Heins said that RIM needs to target its U.S. promotions specifically at the consumer segment if it hopes to regain some of this lost share. "When BlackBerry got positioned the way you experienced it, it was on a set of values: battery life, network efficiency, security and best typing experience," Heins told Bloomberg. "In the U.S. specifically, what we missed is a shift in those paradigms" to more consumer-focused features like apps and Web-browsing."

On a larger global scale, Heins also pledged to bulk up BlackBerrys’ application offering. He plans to stay on track to deliver BlackBerry 10, RIM’s newest smartphone OS, "later this year," and also hopes to breathe new life into the company’s PlayBook tablet with the release of its new operating system, BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0.

The CEO said that RIM’s new software has already piqued the interest of other mobile vendors, and has sparked conversations of potential licensing deals. Heins declined to specify which OEMs had approached the company, but did say that discussions are already in the works. "We’ve had lots of interest about this [RIM’s software]," he said.

Heins’ emphasis on change has already created a sigh of relief among RIM investors, who expressed concern when the new CEO originally said he was planning no "seismic changes" for the company and was generally pleased with RIM’s strategic focus. After unveiling his plans for RIM’s software and marketing makeover, however, the company’s stock rose 3.3 percent to $16.80. The stock was given a lift, specifically, after Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. said it doubled its stake in the company.

And they may not be alone. Former co-CEO Lazaridis also expressed a new confidence in RIM’s future, and told The Record on Friday that he plans to buy an additional $50 million in company stock. Lazaridis attributed much of his optimism to the company’s new leadership.

"I absolutely know he [Heins] will take this company to new heights," he said in the interview.