On Sunday, the co-CEOs of struggling BlackBerry manufacturer RIM stepped down to make way for COO Thorsten Heins to take over. A virtual unknown in the tech space, Heins will be charged with the monumental task of trying to salvage a company in free fall — the company's stock price has fallen more than 75 percent in the past year as competitors Apple and Android continue to gobble up market share. Heins himself sounds somewhat content: "I don't think there is some drastic change needed," he said this week. Really? Here, five unsolicited suggestions for how Heins can get RIM back on track.
1. Trim the product line and focus on a breakout product
RIM has spread itself thin over a bulging roster of mediocre BlackBerry phones. To woo back former "CrackBerry addicts," RIM needs to build a single "super phone" that its customers can get excited about, says Eric Zeman at Information Week. To best the iPhone and Android smartphones, RIM's new gadget would need a huge screen, a great camera, 4G, and a slew of other features. "If RIM can get a single hero product to market by the end of summer, it might have a better chance of surviving into 2013."
2. Adopt Android
BlackBerry 10 — RIM's long-awaited operating system upgrade — is still months away from being released, says Marguerite Reardon at CNET. "And even if it was available tomorrow, the platform has little to no support from developers." The solution? "Heins might want to cut his losses" and start building BlackBerry phones using Android software, which would allow clients to "finally" have access to "hundreds of thousands of apps" through the Android Market.
3. Divert attention away from tablets
"RIM needs to drop its focus on tablet hardware," says Zeman, "or at least significantly reduce the priority of tablets." Although developing new software for the much-derided PlayBook tablet has value — it "lays the foundation" for future BlackBerry devices — the company is devoting too many resources on the hardware end. RIM needs to focus its R&D on developing a new phone.
4. Improve morale
RIM employees have had a "tough couple of years, including two rounds of layoffs last year that shook many of them to their very core," says Carmi Levy at the Toronto Star. Heins is "now the boss of 17,000 of some of the smartest people on the planet," and it's time to win them back. "[He] needs to send them a message" that they're appreciated. "They need to focus on making great products instead of burnishing their resumes, and [Heins] needs to convince them" that he'll truly "be there" for them. Otherwise, you can bet they'll all start eyeing the exits.
5. Market aggressively
Whenever RIM gets BlackBerry 10 OS to market, it needs to "make sure it shines," analyst Jack Gold tells Computerworld. That will require RIM to be "less Canadian" and "laid back," and much more " aggressive in marketing." Hopefully, Heins has that in him.