After posting disastrous financial results in late June, Research In Motion Ltd. CEO Thorsten Heins is trying to change the tone of the conversation about the embattled BlackBerry maker.
Even as the company begins a restructuring that involves 5,000 layoffs, Mr. Heins and members of his executive team reached out to the media and stressed that even if things look bad for BlackBerry now, RIM’s management remains optimistic, despite a delay of the firm’s BlackBerry 10 smartphones until early next year.
As part of what seems like a new openness at the company, Mr. Heins agreed to take questions submitted by readers of The Globe and Mail. We received roughly 200 submissions and chose 10, which we offered to Mr. Heins earlier this week. Here are his answers. (Questions were edited for clarity and length.)
1) I am a dedicated BlackBerry user (and PlayBook too), but I’m worried that between now and the BlackBerry 10 release next year, Android and Apple products will advance yet another generation. As mobile technology rockets forward at its fastest pace ever, will BlackBerry 10 be competitive when it is finally released?
– Stephen, 42, small-business owner in Toronto
Thorsten Heins: BlackBerry 10 is more than just a new smartphone. It’s an entirely new way of thinking about BlackBerry – new software powering new devices and new services. While our competitors update their offerings, BlackBerry 10 will be the only mobile platform built from the ground up with the latest technologies in mind – whether it’s mobile video chat or near-field communications that enable you to use your handset like a wallet. You’re correct, Stephen, mobile technology is a fast-paced industry and a large portion of the world relies on our innovation to stay connected. That’s why we chose the difficult path of developing BlackBerry 10: to provide a robust, reliable new way to interact with the world around you. Clearly, a project of this magnitude is not easy, but we believe the potential of BlackBerry 10 is worth the effort.
2) Why is BlackBerry 10 being delayed? What are the three or four reasons for the delay in consumer terms?
– Pam, 54, marketing consultant in Chicago
Thorsten Heins: There is really only one reason, Pam. We need more time to integrate all the features we have built for BlackBerry 10. While the core technology of BlackBerry 10 is ready to go – outside developers are already working on an array of applications – I decided that the way some features worked together and the related software integration needed more attention and refinement. The goal of BlackBerry 10 is to bring some of the best technologies in the world together in a seamless environment. Simply put, I could still see some of the seams. When you’re dealing with millions of lines of computer code that will be subjected to daily use by users around the world, fine-tuning can take time – in this case, more than we anticipated. We decided to delay the launch of BlackBerry 10 to give us ample time to integrate software, test, and polish the final product.
3) How do you plan on winning back corporate customers who have already adopted bring-your-own device policies and have no desire to run a BlackBerry Enterprise Server alongside their other mobile
– Isaac, 32, IT manager in Vancouver
Thorsten Heins: We understand that the corporate environment is changing as more and more organizations allow employees to use their own devices on the job. We are constantly talking to our customers and what they’ve told us is that they want their mobile systems to be easy to manage, secure and reliable. For that reason, we introduced BlackBerry Mobile Fusion, RIM’s mobile device management solution, which enables IT administrators to control and keep track of tablets and smartphones on BlackBerry, iOS or Android platforms, while ensuring confidential and proprietary data is protected.