When Apple first announced the iPhone back in 2007, the folks over at RIM were incredulous. It was utterly impossible, they reasoned, that Apple would be able to create a device with a large 3.5-inch touchscreen and achieve decent battery life as well.
Indeed, by the time RIM realized that the iPhone threat was real, it was too late.
Over the past few years, RIM tried ably to synthesize their reputation for business-oriented and corporation-friendly smartphones with more media-centric devices like the iPhone, but they were never quite able to catch up. From the Storm 1 and 2 to the recent BlackBerry Torch, RIM’s efforts to compete with Apple were never successful. And once Google got into the smartphone mix, well, the writing was on the wall as they say.
And during all of this, RIM was reportedly in turmoil as the company struggled to maintain its footing. This past Summer, an anonymous RIM executive posted an expose highlighting the extent to which dysfunction and chaos permeated throughout the company.
And so amid numerous rumors of RIM looking to sell to the highest bidder comes word that RIM’s CEO duo – Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie – are stepping down and will be replaced by COO Thorstein Heins.
The news capped months of escalating problems at the Waterloo, Canada-based company. First, RIM’s spring launch of its much-anticipated tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook, fizzled. In October, the company endured a global service outage that had scores of subscribers threatening to switch cellphone brands. In December, RIM delayed the introduction of its BlackBerry 10 operating system by several months for somewhat murky reasons.
In a press release on the matter, RIM announced that Lazaridis will become Vice Chair of RIM’s board while Balsillie will also remain a board member.
Heins, meanwhile, is confident is RIM can return to greatness.
“We have a strong balance sheet with approximately $1.5 billion in cash at the end of the last quarter and negligible debt.,” the newly minted CEO explained in the press release. “We reported revenue of $5.2 billion in our last quarter, up 24% from the prior quarter, and a 35% year-to-year increase in the BlackBerry subscriber base, which is now over 75 million.
BlackBerry 7 has been well received. We are very excited about PlayBook 2.0 and BlackBerry 10. The reception of our products at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was encouraging.”
And again, all this amid rumors that RIM is, or perhaps was, actively courting a buyer.
And so it goes in the tech industry, where today’s leader can turn into tomorrow’s “has been” in a blink of an eye.