BlackBerry maker RIM’s co-CEOs step down

Research In Motion’s (RIM) co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie have stepped down from their roles to make way for a new leader to turnaround the BlackBerry maker’s recent poor run of fortunes.

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Chief operating officer Thorsten Heins will now assume the role of chief executive and will lead RIM’s search for a chief marketing officer – replacing Keith Pardy who left in March – to implement a more “customer and market-based product approach”.

Investors have been calling for a shake up at the top of the company, which is struggling to compete against Apple and the array of devices running Google’s Android operating system.

The US was RIM’s biggest market in 2009, when the company had a 44% share of all the smartphones sold in the territory. This has since slumped to just 10% in 2011, according to NPD Group.

In the UK, RIM is the third largest smartphone maker, with 17.4% of the market according to comScore data for November, although its share is incrementally falling month on month. Apple dominates the UK smartphone market with a 26.2% share and 18.5% of the territory’s smartphones are HTC devices.

RIM reported revenue of $5.2bn in the three months to November, down 6% on the previous year, and millions of dollars have been wiped from its market value in recent months after the company suffered a series of setbacks.

BlackBerry underwent global service outage in October and its first tablet, the PlayBook, underperformed in terms of sales, which resulted in retailers heavily discounting the device as consumers opted for Apple’s iPad and other cheaper tablets.

Despite the company’s unfortunate turn of events in recent months, Heins says RIM has a “strong foundation” on which to build.

He says: “RIM earned its reputation by focusing relentlessly on the customer and delivering unique mobile communications solutions. We intend to build on this heritage to expand BlackBerry’s leadership position.

“As with any company that has grown as fast as we have, there have been inevitable growing pains. We have learned from those challenges and, I believe, we have and will become a stronger company as a result.”

BlackBerry’s upcoming product roadmap includes an update to the PlayBook’s operating system in February and a range of “next generation” BlackBerry 10 smartphones to be launched later this year.

Both former co-CEOs will remain board members. Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984 will become vice chairman, while Balsillie will be a board member without an operational role.

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