According to RIM's own profile of Heins, he held several positions in the wireless arena prior to joining the company in 2009. He was the Chief Technology Officer of Siemens' Communications Division, and held several general management positions in Hardware and Software businesses. For those firmly planted in the present, you may not remember the wilds of 2007; by my own estimation, that's when the entire smartphone arena was turned upside-down by one multifaceted device. In '07, the BlackBerry was a potent communicator -- the OS was comparatively snappy, BBM was a hit and the hardware was practically unparalleled. And then, iPhone OS was launched.
Almost overnight, consumer expectations regarding smartphones changed. They weren't swayed; they were obliterated and reborn. Suddenly, BlackBerry OS looked antediluvian, and it has ever since. What's all this have to do with Heins? A lot, I'd say. Before being given the CEO badge, he served as Chief Operating Officer, Product Engineering, overseeing the BlackBerry smartphone portfolio worldwide. Digest that for a moment -- this is the guy who oversaw the same BlackBerry smartphone platform that the entire North American (and beyond) consumer base has been lambasting for being so last decade. This guy not only had a hand in pushing out countless lackluster phones over the past five years, but he was at the top of it. He had plenty of power to make changes -- radical or subtle -- in what was coming out of Waterloo, and so far as I can tell, he didn't. Color me jaded, but I have a hard time believing that the man in charge of some of the most forgettable BlackBerry handsets in recent memory will suddenly put RIM in a position to compete with and / or dominate the likes of iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Let's go back to that video introduction a bit. These are actual quotes from the mouth of RIM's new CEO:
- "We have taken this to totally new heights and that journey isn't over yet."
- "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."
- "At the very core of RIM is the innovation. We always think ahead. We always think forward. We sometimes think the unthinkable. And that is fantastic."
- "Internally, from a process perspective, I think we need to get a bit more disciplined in our own processes."
- "We are a great innovative company, but sometimes we innovate too much while we're building a product."
- "What we need to get a bit better at here is to have a little bit more of an ear toward the consumer. I want the strengthen this by bringing really good marketing expertise in."
- "...With the 'Be Bold' campaigns, starting right now, I find this really exciting. I'm getting good feedback and we want to continue driving this."
- "Don't lose focus on what the present is. Congratulations to the team; we've seen great success with PlayBook 2.0 at CES. We are heading absolutely in the right direction."
- "BB 10, needless to say, we have to ship on time. I can't wait to see it."
- "I'm also very performance driven. When we decide on getting something done, I want it to be done on time at good quality and at good cost. That defines our customer satisfaction."
I fully understand that I'm being harsh here. Bullet, taken. But RIM needs more than an enthusiastic, intelligent guy who has already been soaked up in the company's culture. RIM needs a shock to the system. RIM needs a reboot. Truth be told, I'm getting an all-too-familiar "burning platform" vibe here, and while I'm not saying that RIM should just adopt Windows Phone or Android and toss the admittedly delectable QNX aside, Heins is clearly sipping some strange, strange sauce if he's mulling the licensing of BlackBerry 10 to other manufacturers. He also mentions great marketing -- ironic, given that the biggest RIM story in the past five years hit directly during an undoubtedly enormous event that had the attention of both Silicon Valley and New York. You think it's a minor thing that RIM's new CEO debuted on a Sunday evening whilst everyone else was watching an NFL game; I think it's something that could've been planned for a bit better. This is RIM's story to tell, and delivery is vital.
RIM needs a shock to the system. RIM needs a reboot.
Perhaps, though, RIM's going to be perfectly fine situating itself in third or fourth place. Perhaps it has no intentions of ever trying to out-Apple Apple or one-up Google. But if Heins is secretly scheming to blow the socks off of either, I've yet to be convinced by the introductory clip embedded below. Tick, tock.