Thorsten Heins, new CEO, talks about the future of RIM and BlackBerry

By Simon Sage on 23 Jan 2012 12:42 am EST

Thorsten Heins

RIM introduced their new CEO, Thorsten Heins, in a video tonight, and he had some interesting things to say about the future of BlackBerry. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Heins starts off by talking about how grateful he is for the opportunity. He says RIM's "journey isn't over yet", and sees BlackBerry being among the top 3 wireless players worldwide if they keep doing what they're doing, and they do it well. This is a view shared by RIM's new chair of the board, Barbara Stymiest, and might not be what shareholders want to hear - at least the ones who have been clamouring for dramatic change at the company, and not just a leadership shuffle.

Heins is very realistic about the improvements RIM needs to make, however. He says "We have learned to execute. Yes, we have to get better at execution, but we've learned a lot going from a drawing room in 2007... Make sure that once we say a product is defined, that we move decively into execution mode, and get the product done in good quality, and on time, and also at good cost. ... We need to get a bit more disciplined in our own processes." In particular, he notes BB10 - "Needless to say - gotta ship on time, gotta ship with good quality."

He reiterates later on that he is very performance-driven, in addition to supporting prototyping and brainstorming. "When we decide on getting something done, I want it to be done on time at good quality, and at good cost, because that at the end of the day defines our customer satisfaction and it also defines our economic result." This message is a great one to deliver, especially if those rumours about the PlayBook's initial delay to launch due to processor changes are to be believed. It's really important for an exec to be able to to say "no" to certain ideas, if only to focus efforts and get goods out the door, and it seems Heins gets that. If RIM can simply pump out products faster, I think they'll be leagues ahead of where they are now.

Heins also speaks about how he's hoping to improve the spirits of those working at RIM. "[Our employees] need to see that BlackBerry is clearly makes a difference. This is not a 'me too' product. ... The employees have to see that they are not just fullfilling something, but they have to see and experience that they are participating in something." To that end, Heins goes onto say that it needs to be illustrated that internal feedback is listened to and considered... In other words, you won't have to send out anonymous letters to the media in order to expediate change at RIM. Regardless, Thorsten speaks with great admiration for the fighting spirit with which many employees have been tackling BB10, and that he can't wait to see it in the public's hands.

Heins went on to describe their corporate customer base as RIM's "fortress", which they will continue to defend, but has big plans for the everyday consumer too. "We need to be constantly communicating with our customers, with the audience, with the public, telling them about BlackBerry. You see this with the Be Bold campaign style." I'm really glad that Thorsten brought up the Be Bold campaign as the key example of good marketing at RIM, rather than the "Love" campaign, which never really struck a chord with me.

And what's Thorsten like personally? Well, he likes the outdoors and he's from Bavaria, where it was much easier to do some skiing. You can watch the full video below. How do you feel about the new RIM CEO? Will he be able to fill big Mike's engineering shoes? Can he match Jim's salesmanship? He definitely has a few fresh angles here without deviating too much from the established BlackBerry principles... As a speaker, he definitely seems more relaxed and confident that the co-CEOs of yore did when in front of the camera. For now, I'm cautiously optimistic about Thorsten Heins. I'm definitely interested to hear what Heins has to say on tomorrow morning's conference call, which we'll be livecasting starting at 7:45 AM EST. Be sure to tune in!

Reader comments

Thorsten Heins, new CEO, talks about the future of RIM and BlackBerry


Not going to get my hopes up over this move. The things he's speaking on sort of echos what Jim and Mike have been saying this whole time.

"Thorsten Heins Leads RIMpire to Top" In a short time I am confident we will see the headlines in our favor again! Also i'm so glad Mike and Jim are not ousted and gone but merely letting someone else have a chance to carry on their legacy.

Wow, I just couldn't believe the BS in that article. Why doesn't the author of the article make an appointment to give RIM a kiss of death in person?

Typical Tech Press stuff...sites like Engadget et al have decided that only Google and Apple offer anything of value in terms of mobile operating systems. Everything else is irrelevant.

Yes, RIM is in trouble through their own missteps and lack of foresight. However, the Tech Press is responsible for twisting the knife in deeper.

Yeah. I'm surprised at the negativity of the article. Why does EVERYONE have to adopt Android or Windows phone? There are 75 million BB users around the world, and there are some people that wants something different. It's insane to think that a company will go out and hire someone externally in the middle of the company's biggest transition. This is completely different situation from Nokia when they fired their CEO and had to appoint someone. RIM's already down the QNX road, and hopefully the new CEO can make sure it delivers BB10 early rather than later...

Actually, it's virtually the same as Nokia as they were well down the Meamo/MeeGo road when they decided to throw in the towel.

The difference is that RIM is NOT throwing in the towel and is choosing to remain in control of their own destiny which takes a hell of allot more balls then Mr Elop and the rats on Nokia's board will ever have. Wanna know why RIM will succeed? Because the Board isn't fleeing the ship after this appointing this guy. The Chair of Nokia's board announced his resignation (granted he doesn't step down until May and they hired Elop last year) a few weeks after hiring the worst Canadian they could find to run the company.

RIM's board still has faith in the company. They are choosing to restructure to make themselves more efficient in their current processes and place the founder in a roll where he can excel rather then having to worry about day to day operations within the company.

Plus I have no idea how much Microsoft pays Tech bloggers, but if you want to compare RIM to Nokia, then Nokia by all appearances has bet on the wrong horse because despite the glowing praises that sites like Engadget sing for Microsoft's new OS, it's the biggest flop in history from a consumer perspective and only 1 major US carrier is giving it more then token support. It's even worse in Canada where none of the Carriers launched a single second generation Windows Phone Product and are giving Nokia only token support.

For all it's troubles, RIM is at least still on track to deliver an entirely new user experience that is wholly owned by the company. If RIM was smart in licensing BB 10, it wouldn't be to other phone makers, it would be to Automakers. Imagine every car that runs QNX for it's infotainment having a Powered By BlackBerry 10 logo on the dash. That's where RIM needs to build synergies and leverage a strong asset. RIM owns QNX, RIM needs to get it's branding on QNX powered products that potential smart phone users interact with on a daily basis like their cars.

I dunno about that, but one good thing is that a slender gentleman is now the public face of RIM rather than a fat guy.

You guys know the siemens mobile was the biggest fail ever in german telco history?? Don't know if he is the right man when he learned the business there.. But of course I am wishing him alle the best as the new CEO

Is this real? This is soooo fantastic, I'm sooo excited...

What does he want tell us? RIM is in trouble and this guy is telling us that processes and process execution have to be improved.
It's clear that this guy was part of the mgm team for yrs. He should therefore take the responsibility to step down not up.

RIM should have gotten an outsider as CEO 3 yrs ago. Someone who really drives innovation and has a real passion for great products. Someone, that would have prevented the 9900 and OS7.

From my point of view, this guy has the order to make the bride beautiful to sell it.


Wow, talk about horses and barn doors...

Mr. Heins says that RIM will be fine if they continue to do as they're doing, only better. Not sure I like the sound of that. Clearly what they're doing is NOT right and hasn't been for years.

Mr. Heins has stepped in to the fight of his life...I hope he realizes that. The Tech Press has declared RIM dead and buried, and only seems to be interested in writing material that perpetuates that mindset. The folks here at are a breath of fresh air in that regard, in that they at least keep some optimism going.

I'm really not convinced there's much that can rescue RIM at this point, given that the world has decided that Google and Apple offer the only mobile operating systems that matter.

which "world"? Only the US. There is a ton of growth for RIM outside the US.

Do people expect Heins to do a burning platform speech when he got hired by the Board which still retains Mike L and Jim B as Board members? Any one thinking that (like the idiots at engadget) is insane.

Well, I mean Nokia's board hired Mr Elop and then all quit, what does that tell you about the faith that company's board had in their choice?

At least the Board at RIM remains confident in the company's path and we will see how they execute BB 10. The reports of their demise are greatly exaggerated. If the launch of BB 10 is successful this year RIM is still very much the third ecosystem and a force to be reckoned with.

People want to call it over for RIM before they have launched a single phone with the new OS yet these same blogs sing the praises of Microsoft who's Windows Phone 7 platform has failed miserably in the market in the past 5 quarters with over a dozen devices launched. All hope is on one phone from Nokia - the Company that threw in the towel, who's board gave the company to Microsoft then half of them including the chair resigned. Yeah that sounds like they have faith in the path that Nokia is on and in Microsoft's ability to make the failure into a success.

Want to talk about long term failures in Mobile, Microsoft is the prime example. How long have they been trying to make the Metro UI successful?

6 years!!!

Zune is Metro - it failed
Windows Phone - same damn UI as the failed Zune, been on the market 5 quarters now and has LOST market share. Sounds like a recipe for success to me. But Microsoft has the money to keep doing the same failed thing over and over until it finally catches on because they decided that they will put that crap interface on everything the company sell so consumers have no choice but to use it.

I mean the thing that reviewers love about Windows Phone - the People hub, RIM is delivering even better with broader social integration across the platform in BB 10 (Thanks Gist). RIM took the best of all approaches - button-less intuitive interface like Nokia Swipe - great WebOS style multitasking executed better then anything the market has ever seen - beautiful UI and first party apps (thanks RIM Sweden AKA TAT).

The truth that no one is willing to accept is that RIM DOES NOT NEED ANOTHER DRASTIC CHANGE as they are right in the middle of a DRASTIC change to a whole new platform and UI. They have the pieces, they just need flawless execution. They have no need to abandon the path they are on because it is a good one. We just have yet to see the fruit. But that will start to come within weeks with Tablet OS 2.0 and will continue until BB 10. I do wish they'd change the name one more time to something entirely different to really signify the change rather then just another numeral after the work BlackBerry. Something catchy and that conveys the simplicity and beauty of the new platform that also breaks away from the old. That's why they need a Chief Marketing Officer

The kind of change many want takes time. He IS a change in "management". As for vision, only time will tell. Remember though that even the CEO can't change a company that large in one night... it will take time before any real changes from this guy are seen.

"If we continue doing well what we're doing, I see no problems with us being in the top three players worldwide in the next years in wireless."

Cause that's just been going so well for RIM these past few years hasn't it?

I'm stil glad we got a new CEO but now having seen the entire video and read the transcripts, I'm not as sure as there will be corporate change within RIM's way of doing business. Oh well, guess time will tell.

Look, no offence but i can't say i have much hope for RIM with this move. If Heins had come in and admitted the current state of BB and that he intended to change things in a big way, maybe i would have had some hope. Rather he said that they just needed to keep "innovating" the way they have been... Fail! I love BB i really do, and i sincerely hope that in a year or two they are back to being serious competitors, but for the time being they are a sinking ship, and getting a new captain that doesn't notice the ship's taking on water isn't going to stop it sinking, let alone get it back afloat...

Anyone recall that joke about getting a such'n'such to design the product but whatever you do get a German to build it for you? Hopefully he will be the breath of fresh air RIM needs.

This is all just public relation illusions. Its just a CEO, which is one person on a board of people who make the desisions. No change has been made that has any impact on production or quality.
Let me tell you about the real difference between Toyota and Chevrolet, historically anyways. At Chev, changes to the product are made by engineers. The guy on the manufacturing floor is just expected to follow the instructions of assembly without question. At Toyota, the design and engineer team come up with ideas and plans for changes, but its the guy on the manufacturing floor who gives the final OK. As a result, Toyota makes a far superior product as far as quality, fit and finish, and ease of maintenance.
Changes like that are what would impact a different outcome. Changing an insignificant public figure head is all just meaningless show!

Did anyone else read the Engadget article on this?

I find it interesting to read the different thoughts on the matter. One coming from a biased opinion, and one from a what you would hope is unbiased (although you never really know) opinion.

No matter what happens, I hope it works. I am not ready to give up on my clickity clack Bold 9900 keyboard just yet.

He is going to stress things being done in an on time manner and on schedule.

He has pretty much the same views as the previous CEOs.

Things will be the same mentally at RIM just more on time with their announced delivery dates. Being on time is good but they also need innovation.

I don't know what to make of this appointment. He is rehashing what Jim and Mike have been saying all year. Here was the perfect opportunity to bring in some fresh executive blood and they promote someone who is part of the problem to begin with. I will give him shot though just to see if it was really Mike and Jim stiffling the company or whether the problems are even more deeply routed.

I see some reference to the engadget article and Blackberry's lack of innovation but what has the other platforms innovated recently that Blackberry hasn't done for years? Blackberry's already do the basic functions better than any other platform... With OS 2 they have built on that and it is directly squarely at the enterprise market.

The problem here is content and I really don't know where it will be coming from but as far as email and pim I don't see others even coming close now. They have also brought exceptional multitasking to the tablet and that will be implemented in the handsets as well as gestures. If you ask me RIM has innovated more than anybody over the last year. There problem is horrible execution and a barren wasteland as far as apps are concerned.

Mr Heinz, please add USB hosting on the PlayBook and please make a dock that has a full sized SD slot, HDMI out, and like 4 full sized USB slots. In regards to the BB10 platform please make the next phones top of the line. I'm talking quad core cpu, 1gb+ of RAM, like 16gb of internal memory that includes for the apps as well, front facing cam, and forgoodness sake get ALL the major IM apps on the PlayBook and bb10, same goes for the book apps. Lastly, get Netflix and Hulu in there as well to satisfy everyones hunger.

Why do you actually need 4 cores? Even computers today can do most, if not all things a regular user does, with a dual-core.

I would much rather have a lesser processor but actually being able to last through a day with use. My current 9850 lasts 48-60 hours with light use and 5 mails, and lasts around 30h with heavy use.

Another man in a suit?

Oh I dunno.... I feel like they need someone w personality. Either way I hope RIM smashes it this year!

could always save that for the marketing. look at the ps3 adverts for example - they seem to work.

you could always get barney stinson. he wears a suit and is funny :P

I understand people being wary of the man's plan going forward. It's hard to be positive when the negative aspects of RIM are constantly brought up and harped on for a story on certain tech sites. However, we should try to stay open to the future. Wait and see what he actually DOES. Everyone acting as though the statement(s) he's made somehow mean it's going to be more of the same for RIM til it's unavoidable demise is ridiculous. The man can't become the new face of the company and come out with "I know the company is in shambles and everyone just wants Android and iOS, so we'll be releasing the idroidBerry ASAP so rest assured you shall all have what you desire post haste. Also, my predecessors are idiots and should have been done away with years ago. We have begun working on a time machine to correct that. That is all." I know we're made to believe that time is an impossible luxury, and that RIM will be gone if something isn't done in days, let alone weeks. But, let's see what the situation looks like in a few months. I love my 9900 and would love to see even better devices in the future.

Suggestion to new CEO of RIM. Simplify everything. There are too many operating systems (v5, v6 and v7), too many phone models (wow these numbers certainly confuse) . The Playbook screen is too small compared to other tablets. Lets also put more ram memory on the phones as well. Blackberry is a great product but is just to confusing to keep up with. I also think in simplifying the no of phones etc, it would save a great deal of money for the company which would improve their bottom line but also maybe bring down the cost of the devices themselves.

too many operating systems comes with the territory. would you like it if devs just stopped developing for your operating system?

It goes to show how robust (though not as straight forward to develop for) the OS is for BB.

Playbook is one tablet, introducing another contradicts what you're saying ;) and the size is your opinion, i quite like the size and wouldn't mind if they brought out an 8 inch model.

simplifying the line is understandable but I think it comes down to the standards, iphone is easy to develop for because each model iphone has been very similar.

But that's not to say that having many phones cant work. Android has how many models now? Samsung, LG, Sony, etc etc.

I do believe that covering lower end and high end is still worthwhile for RIM and the perception of having too many phones that similar come through having GSM and CDMA phones.

torch 1 and torch 2 are different generations but some people feel there's not much difference. the curves and the bold are very different again and user to be only one touch screen device up until the release of the torch and then the gen 7 phones variations.

In all fairness I just think if they can simplify the tools (software) for consumers and devs which Im sure they're doing with BB10 then they'll go a long way because I don't find their phones at all confusion. it's just easier to track one phone rather than many models ;)

Quote: You guys know the siemens mobile was the biggest fail ever in german telco history??

I am German, but I cannot verify this statement. Siemens was producing quite good and tough cell phones in the early days. They had a remarkable market share in europe. But I don't think Thorsten was working for the "mobile section" of Siemens in these times.

Besides my German nationality I think he can bring a new "breeze" into RIM, and to be
honest, how worse can it get?

I think RIM employees as a whole, will be happy with this move. Some think he didn't say much about what he's going to do. Those people are very mistaken. Most of his comments are clearly directed at employees who obviously know what is going on.

He is all for innovation, but you need to lock down the specs on a product, then build it while a separate team innovates and develops a new product. You don't develop on the product you're actually putting to market.

What Darren over at Engaget doesn't doesn't get, is that this is a transitional phase for RIM who needs at least one transitional CEO who must get internal structures fixed first. You can't bring in a sales/marketing CEO until that aspect is corrected.

Well I still think that RIM needs to drop OS 10 and move to Android, this is the only move I see to revive RIM.

Unfortunatly the CEO and other people don't see this. This the only solution for RIM. If they wait for OS 10 to be released it will be too late for RIM.

I see a blackberry using android with an htc or maybe a samsung handset with exclusive features like bbm and push mail.

Remeber my words RIM will regret not doing this change.

seriously, screw droid. I love my blackberry the way it is and i absolutely don't want RIM to become part of the buggy, laggy, virus filled thing that is android. the day RIM adopts android is the day i stop using BB. and no. no phone deserves EXCLUSIVE BB features other than BB itself. you can't have your pie and eat it. want the features, get a BB.

I guess this will quiet the activist investors for a while but reality is RIM just needs to get OS2 and BB10 out yesterday!

I hate to sound like a 'negative Nancy', but I really had hoped for someone with more industry experience and wide business connections. All I see here is a CEO that is most likely a mouth piece for the two men behind the curtain.

Fortunately, I sold my RIMM shares last week when the Samsung rumor was released. Now, I have to wonder what the market will think of this decision. At this point in pre-market trading, it doesn't look good.

I sure hope this CEO shows leadership, is capable, connected, and empowered!

I love my Bold 9930 and Mike got us to it. I think we, BlackBerry users, still have the most secure, best e-mail and messaging phone out there. Furthermore, we have a tremendously customizable smart-phone. However, what has been lacking is ease of use.

He mentioned this several times in focusing on the consumer. If this guy really called Kevin, and I believe he did, it represents a new, open approach that RIM needs. Like Kevin, I have tremendous respect for Mike but it did seem that a few changes needed to be made and I hope Mike supports this new guy all the way. I believe he will.

His first test:
Deliver 2.0 on time.



A couple things that bother me:

1. he is a RIM insider, so that probably means continuing their present course, which he allludes to in this story. The present course is what got RIM where they are now.. It is incredible to me that he thinks most everything is "hunky-dory" and just needs a little marketing and process tweaks. Wow. Just, wow.

2. The 2 ex CEO knuckleheads simply moved up to the Board, where they will probably be meddling daily. Additionally, RIM even gave one of themthe Chief of Innovation title, which is absurd. Blackberry hasn't innovated anything is years.

Although we have been clamoring for a leadership change, I am not quite sure this is "the guy". Only time will tell, I guess.I feel this is really just a shuffling of the chairs.

Regardless, Godspeed, Mr Heinz!

To me, this is about changing perception. Right now, if you walk into your carrier's store to buy a new phone and don't already have a BlackBerry - how likely are you to ask to see the latest BlackBerry? How likely are you to walk out of the store with it if you do?

RIM needs to BeBold - to come out with a phone that gets folks who don't already have a BlackBerry to ask to play with the newest and BB10 better be it. All the deliver what you say, on time etc keeps the people you already have - coming out with devices that push the envelope gets the attention of those who have others phones and that's what RIM needs, IMHO.

If this heins dude, at one point was responsible for product innovation/engineering, etc, Why would rim hire him as the new ceo??? I thought the lack of [hardware & software] product innovation was the reason rim was failing to begin with??? If they're continuing down the same road making left turns, they're going in circles...OH WELL...

I'm sorry but this infomercial from the new CEO felt stale and generally uninformative to me. Other then stating the obvious need to improve delivery, quality and acceptance among non IT consumers, there is not much left to chew on. His vision of the future seems to look a lot like the past, as if he is a bridge CEO to eventual sale of the hardware side rather then a visionary with a clear perspective of what's ahead for RIMM. Certainly improving general consumer interest with relevant hardware and software is numero uno - getting things out on time guarantees nothing as to quality and acceptance (software). We know what the general lead time is from concept to product so this "new" emphasis on timeliness is great but needs to be accompanied by relevancy to their core issues. Right now I would normally be considering migrating from my trusty 9700 to the 99 or 98 series with my at&t renewal coming up. Unfortunately, the 9900 is way overpriced at 199 (sorry, but it is and you paying taxes on 550 or so, not 199). Plus you are done with "cheap" renewal pricing with models that have an abbreviated period of relevancy as they were at least a step behind the top tier when they came out and will probubly be dirt cheap when the new models come out in oh - let's say 2012 to be optimistic. I always thought a dualistic marketing strategy would be best for RIMM - here is our enterprize models and here are our consumer models, with secure email either way. Maybe take on another OS rather then get stubborn about 10 as there is already general acceptance for others. I still think the chances are 50/50 they sell off the hardware side and that would certainly not be spoken about in this interview, or any other.

Say what you want about this "up-coming" change but Im excited to see what going to take place, though Im sure RIM / BB needs a MAJOR improvement to stay in the race for good quality mobile service. For you Andriod and I-phone lovers, yes, you do have a good product, however, everyone has their own style as to what they like to work with, and for the millions of us who have BB, it fits us just fine.

Im not a big fan of APPS and all that garbage on my phone though i see thats the BIG THING these days is to have plenty of them on your cell, I use those on my tablet, I myself will stay with BB until I feel there is a need for me to move on.