TORONTO -- The new chief executive of Research in Motion said Monday that drastic change is not needed, even as the once iconic maker of the BlackBerry smartphone confronts the most difficult period in its history.
The Canadian company turned the smartphone into a ubiquitous device that many couldn't live without. But following the departure of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, who stepped down as co-CEOs and co-chairmen, Thorsten Heins assumes the chief executive role at a time when Americans are abandoning their Blackberrys for flashier touch-screen phones.
RIM's U.S. market share of smartphones dropped from 44 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2011, according to market researcher NPD Group. The company still has 75 million active subscribers, but many analysts believe the company will lose market share internationally, just as it has in the U.S.
Heins, formerly a chief operating officer who joined RIM four years ago, replaces RIM's founders after the company has lost tens of billions in market value. Even so, Heins said Monday that he didn't think significant change was needed. He said the leadership change was not a "seismic" event.
Heins said he's committed to switching the company's phones over to a new operating system, which is expected later this year. That's the same plan favored by Lazaridis and Balsillie, who said Sunday they would step down from the top jobs, but serve in other roles.
Heins said RIM has to improve its U.S. marketing to go beyond the traditional corporate customer.
"I want us to have a bit more of an ear towards the consumer market, understand trends, and not just do what the Street is telling you," Heins said.
Heins said RIM doesn't have plans "right now" to put the company up for the sale or to split it up. He reiterated there is no reason for a "shake up" of RIM. He explained that he would consult with Lazaridis and Balsille on major decisions because they remain board members.
Heins' top priority will be to release smartphones that run the company's long-awaited Blackberry 10 software.
Vic Alboini, president of Jaguar Financial Corp., which has been pushing for a change in leadership, said the 8 percent drop to $15.61 in stock price following Heins' remarks Monday meant the market saw the leadership adjustment as "more of the same."