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Top RIM jobs shake-up: Heads roll... but not very far

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Comment Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have stepped down as co-CEOs at RIM, but sacrificial lambs have to be sacrificed, not kept knocking around while things continue as usual.

Lazaridis hangs on as vice-chairmain, and gets control of a new "Innovation Committee" within the company, while Balsillie will have to content himself with a board position, but what's most remarkable about their replacement – former COO Thorsten Heins – is that he firmly believes the only thing preventing RIM's success is that people don't know how great it is.

RIM had to sacrifice someone, sales are down and shareholders are calling for change, but while the company has a new head, the thoughts inside it look very similar to those it has replaced, and anyone expecting a change of direction will be sadly disappointed.

That may be, in part, because Heins was chosen by those he succeeded, but speaking to reporters he repeatedly emphasised the great decisions made by those he was replacing, to the point where one might wonder why they were being replaced at all.

So his predecessors are "visionaries" who "pioneered the smartphone industry" and "took a bold step" in buying QNX which (it turns out) was "the right path to go [down]". There were "bumps on the road", but "we are strong today because of what we've been though". Plans for the future are limited to "continu[ing] to develop customer-focused products" and "make sure employees have the tools available to help them succeed".

There was much more along those lines, platitudes delivered in scripted monotone. When asked directly what he was going to do to turn the company around, Heins claimed the company didn't need turning around, only greater "market communications" – and even that was just for the USA.

The only point on which Heins was adamant, and showed any trace of emotion, was scotching any talk of selling off parts of the business and breaking up RIM. He was "prepared to entertain" licensing BlackBerry 10, but given that it's not even out yet it's hard to imagine who would be interested in taking a licence.

RIM has beheaded its board to show shareholders that it can change, only it hasn't changed and is still betting everything on BlackBerry 10 (the new platform based on QNX), which will arrive on the PlayBook next month. The face at the top might be different but the company remains unchanged. ®

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