CANADIAN PHONE MAKER Research in Motion (RIM) is doing all it can to get developers on board and make a comeback with a new CEO after possibly its toughest year yet.
This aspirational comeback will hinge around this change in personnel as well as the success of its upcoming operating system (OS), Blackberry 10. However, for RIM to rest its entire future on the Blackberry 10 OS is risky at best.
The firm lost a great deal of market share in 2011 as it was hit by a massive service outage as well as increasing competition from rivals such as the Iphone and Android smartphones. It also acquired a bad image after it emerged that 'chavs' used its BBM messaging service to incite the London riots during the Summer. Things weren't looking good.
But then the firm announced that its new CEO, German Thorsten Heins, had replaced RIM's two CEOs this year, after it became clear that something drastic had to be done.
At RIM's Devcon Europe this week, Heins took to the stage for the opening keynote speech in his first public appearance since taking the position. It wasn't previously announced whether he would even appear at the event, so at least Devcon Europe didn't lead to the press slamming Heins for not turning up.
There was some buzz in the air as the conference kicked off with pumping music and a trio of keynotes from RIM executives. Heins was the first on stage and received a warm welcome from the 2,000 odd developers in attendance.
It didn't come as much of a surprise to hear Heins bigging up the developers and advertising Blackberry as the best operating system and user base to target. He said that "developers are critical to our long term success", which of course everyone knows.
One thing that goes in Heins' favour is that he's been promoted from within the company, having joined RIM in 2007. This means he knows the company well already, and he's obviously got some charisma, judging by the enthusiasm and positivity he showed throughout his keynote.
While the keynote was fairly tame overall, Heins came across as likable and brought out some fighting talk, saying the firm is "ready to compete, make no mistake".
It's clear that he won't let RIM go down without a fight and his confidence and drive are believable. He will certainly do a better job as a solo act than Balsillie and Lazaridis did as a duo.
"I'm absolutely convinced that RIM has an exciting future," said Heins with authority at the end of his keynote.
To start the year, RIM will be fighting its rivals with new releases of its smartphone and tablet operating systems. Playbook OS 2.0, based on QNX, will tip up later this month and Blackberry 7.1 soon after.
RIM is, of course, touting these updates as major and game changing. However, in the big scheme of things, they are fairly unimpressive, with Playbook OS 2.0 offering features such as native email, which simply should have been there when the tablet was first launched. It's a step in the right direction but way behind its rivals.
The Canadian firm's future is ultimately resting on the shoulders of Blackberry 10. The next generation OS that is also based on QNX will run across smartphones and tablets, mimicking what Google has already done with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. RIM is even saying that it will run in the home and in cars as well as on smartphones and tablets.
Blackberry 10 has been talked about a lot at Devcon Europe and has therefore overshadowed the two new operating systems that the firm is about to roll out. That's not the best tactic to get developers to build apps for the present systems, but it highlights a clear long term strategy.
Blackberry 10 doesn't have a projected release date that's more specific than this year but we can assume it will be towards the end of the year, due to the fact that the two upcoming operating systems are yet to ship.
If the new OS is this late, things won't look so good for RIM. The firm likely won't regain much market share this year, and until some evidence of how great Blackberry 10 will actually be arrives, RIM's future hangs in the balance. µ