RIM's BlackBerry fails to woo consumers

Mar 30 2012, 13:58 IST
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SummaryRIM said it failed to compete with flashier, consumer-oriented iPhone and Android phones.

Struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. said Thursday that it plans to return its focus to its corporate customers after failing to compete with flashier, consumer-oriented phones such as Apple's iPhone and models that run Google's Android software.

The shift in strategy came with a management shakeup that includes longtime executive Jim Balsillie leaving the board and severing ties with a company he helped build and later see decline.

RIM said it will focus its consumer efforts on targeted offerings that tap the company's strengths. That includes devices that employees will want to buy on their own and bring to the corporate environment. The company was exploring partnerships and other opportunities for consumer products that aren't deemed central. Those products could include software and features that are then incorporated into RIM's own offerings.

“We can't do everything ourselves, but we can do what we're good at,” said RIM CEO Thorsten Heins.

RIM has had limited success trying to enter consumer markets in recent years, particularly with high-end devices that sport touch screens popular with consumers.

Heins said a turnaround required 'substantial change'.

“We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we tried to be everybody's darling and all things to all people,” said Heins.

“Therefore, we plan to build on our strength,” he said.

Heins, who joined RIM four years ago and was most recently its chief operating officer, replaced co-CEOs Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis in January after the company lost tens of billions in market value. Lazaridis founded the company, and Balsillie had joined in its early years.

RIM said Thursday that Balsillie has resigned from its board after 20 years with the company. David Yach, chief technology officer for software, and Jim Rowan, chief operating officer for global operations, also are leaving.

The company said it was undergoing a comprehensive strategic review. Heins said he was open to selling the company, but “it is not the main direction we are pursuing right now.”

The Canadian company has long dominated the corporate smartphone market. Its BlackBerrys are known for their security and reliability as email devices. President Barack Obama even refused to part with his BlackBerry after he took office.

RIM has sought to expand its appeal to consumers, but it has had trouble because the phones aren't perceived to be as sexy as its chief competitors. RIM has been counting on improvements with its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 system, but that has faced multiple delays. BlackBerrys also lag iPhones or Android

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