Thorsten Heins

Earlier today, Adam put up a quick post outlining what Research in Motion CEO, Thorsten Heins, said in an interview with The Telegraph.  Now that I've had a chance to read through the original article and speak to RIM about it for clarification, I thought I'd post up my opinion and raise a few questions.

Let's start with a quick recap of the most important quote from the story:

"We don't have the economy of scale to compete against the guys who crank out 60 handsets a year. We have to differentiate and have a focused platform. To deliver BB10 we may need to look at licensing it to someone who can do this at a way better cost proposition than I can do it. There's different options we could do that we're currently investigating."  

This quote, along with others in the original story, has caused people to speculate that RIM is going to exit the hardware business, or form a partnership with another large player in much the same way as Microsoft has teamed up with Nokia.  

Before we go jumping to conclusions about what this quote actually means, let's look at the sentence that precedes it, as written by The Telegraph's Matt Warman:  "Heins is keenly aware that he must get cheaper devices into the mainstream"

Ahhh, so the context behind this quote is about bringing BlackBerry 10 into the low end of the market.  This is indeed what RIM highlighted to us when we spoke to them today.

In January 2013 we should see RIM announce the first two BlackBerry 10 phones.  These, along with any other variations that RIM might launch, will be geared towards the mid to high end of the market.

BlackBerry 7 will have some legs to carry RIM through 2013 in emerging markets, but before too long they need a low-cost strategy.  And this is what Thorsten is getting at.  RIM doesn't have the deep supply chain and economies of scale to design and build low cost phones for the Asian market, for example.  Not when they're up against dozens and dozens of low cost Androids.  So finding a partner who wants to dive into that market might make a lot more sense.

One thing is clear, though.  RIM is not abandoning the hardware market.  Microsoft is moving closer to becoming an integrated supplier.  Apple is a completely integrated supplier.  RIM has always been an integrated supplier.  There is no good reason to change this.  In Kevin's interview with Thorsten following RIM's AGM last month, Thorsten highlighted the value of RIM being an integrated supplier.  

There is no reason to believe RIM's view has changed since the AGM.