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RIM releases its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday with new CEO Thorsten Heins delivering the results, his first set of quarterly earnings as the head of the Waterloo, Ont., company after taking over from co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis in late January.J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail

Today at 4 p.m., join us for live tweets from RIM's earnings call.

Thorsten Heins has less than three months on the job, but the Street will be pressing him for answers on Thursday when he oversees the release of quarterly results at Research In Motion Ltd.

The freshman chief executive officer faces a huge challenge in fixing operations at RIM, whose BlackBerry smartphone is struggling to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market. But with short sellers circling like sharks and analysts almost universally bearish on the stock, RIM desperately needs to orchestrate a turnaround.

Although many are already writing off Canada's biggest technology player, other companies before it have masterminded comebacks that took markets by surprise. The biggest turnaround stories in the tech sector have involved activist shareholders and strong leadership. However, neither of those conditions have clearly materialized yet at RIM, or for that matter at Nokia Corp., another giant in the mobile phone business to suddenly find itself in jeopardy.

In some respects, the fall of Finland's Nokia has been even bigger than RIM's. For years, Nokia was the world's No. 1 cellphone maker, dominating both Europe and emerging markets, and serving up cutting edge products running a leading operating system.

But as the handset industry underwent rapid development, Nokia lost both its innovative and competitive edge, getting soundly beaten in the smartphone market by Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and HTC Corp. of Taiwan.

Just over a year ago, Nokia abandoned its own software platform and hitched its future to Microsoft Corp.'s Windows mobile operating system. Unfortunately, the share price has continued its slide, falling more than 50 per cent since the Microsoft marriage. Today, Nokia continues to struggle with falling sales, mounting losses and high inventories.

The most famous case of a tech-titan turnaround remains the revival of Apple. It began with the return of co-founder Steve Jobs to the position of CEO in 2000. One of his first steps was to call a truce with Microsoft and win a commitment that the world's largest software maker would continue to write a version of Office software for Apple's Mac computer. He also orchestrated a much-needed injection of capital, in the form of a $150-million (U.S.) investment from Microsoft, shortly before launching his offensive into the nascent digital music industry.

Within seven years of Mr. Jobs regaining control of Apple, the share price had soared tenfold.

Then, there is the more recent case of Motorola, which actually launched the mobile phone industry, making the first cellphone call in 1973. Its iconic handsets included the early brick-sized phone launched in 1984 (price: $4,000, weight: 1 kilogram), the StarTAC flip phone in 1996 that stylishly clipped to a belt, and the slim Razr in 2004 that took handset design to a new level.

But the Schaumburg, Ill.-based company largely missed the industry's move to smartphones and paid a heavy financial price, losing more than $4-billion between 2007 and 2009.

In August, 2008, Sanjay Jha took over as CEO. He cut jobs and streamlined operations so that all the company's smartphones would use Google's Android operating system. But with activist investor Carl Icahn publicly urging for a sale of Motorola's extensive patent portfolio, a drastic solution was set in motion.

In January, 2011, the company split in two, with the handset business spun off into Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and the less-sexy communications equipment business going to Motorola Solutions.

Eight months later, Google stepped up with a $12.5-billion offer for Motorola Mobility, offering a 63-per-cent premium to the market value at the time. The deal gave the Internet giant a trove of valuable patents and complemented its extensive software business with handsets, set top boxes and other hardware.

Motorola Solutions has thrived on its own. The shares are up 33 per cent since their debut and the company has shown steady revenue growth and solid profitability each quarter since.

As Mr. Icahn cashed out his stakes in the two new companies, speculation mounted that he would redirect those funds to RIM and orchestrate a shakeup of similar proportions. At the moment, however, it appears that RIM's recovery remains firmly in the hands of Mr. Heins.

Today at 4 p.m., join us for live tweets from RIM's earnings call.

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