Can RIM Overcome the BYOD Challenge?

By Jennifer Lawinski  |  Posted 05-02-2012

Research In Motion is betting on its BlackBerry 10 mobile computing platform to re-gain market share in the U.S. The smartphone maker knows it has a rocky road ahead as Apple's iPhone and iPad, and the bevy of Android smartphones and tablets make inroads into the enterprise.

Speaking to a group of reporters at the company's BlackBerry World 2012 conference in Orlando, FL, CEO Thorsten Heins said that since taking the reins from former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazardis in January 2012, he's been evaluating the company's management structure and product offerings as it readies the launch of its next-generation mobile computing platform later this year.

"The whole company gets it that in the U.S., we have a battle ahead of us. No doubt," Thorsten said. However, with "BlackBerry 10 we will be a strong contender in the U.S. again, and I absolutely expect us to re-gain market share in the U.S."

RIM has faced dwindling sales of its BlackBerry devices -- once a stalwart of the mobile enterprise -- as Apple iPhone and Android smartphones have gained popularity among business users and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend continues. A growing number of employees are using their own devices on corporate networks to access data and email.

For the enterprise, he said, BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, which allows network administrators to manage any mobile devices, regardless of platform, will be key, along with a revamp of the enterprise division's management team. "This is clearly an investment area and it's something I just want to be No. 1 in," Heins said. "I need BlackBerry 10 as a platform for the mobile enterprise."

Heins blamed some of RIM's missteps on its explosive growth. When he was hired in 2007, he said the company had more than 6,000 employees. Three years later it had more than 20,000. That rapid growth caused the organization to lose sight of whether it was making efficient decisions, he said.

"Here and there in the company [we] have a little fat on our hips and we need to evolve into a lean, mean, nimble hunting machine," he said. "There were many things that were nice to do, but actually really not part of the business."

Heins stressed that RIM is not going to lose its enterprise focus, but rather devote more of its energy to the corporate market that had been its primary source of revenue for so long. "That's where BlackBerrys live best," Heins said.

However, the company is going to need BlackBerry 10 to make inroads in the consumer and "prosumer" market that is dominated by Apple and Android by building an app ecosystem.

Heins said RIM was planning to launch an LTE version of its PlayBook this year, and it would not be killing off its physical keyboards, despite the BlackBerry Alpha Dev smartphone prototype shown at the event that featured a touchscreen only. "We are the best physical keypad on the planet, and we don't want to give this up," he said. "We only showed you one element about what the future of the BlackBerry 10 portfolio could look like."