In brief remarks to reporters Wednesday, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins revealed little of RIM's specific plans for the future but confirmed his determination to rebuild RIM as a "mobile computing" powerhouse, going beyond smartphones and tablets.
Heins did say that RIM would release a 4G-equipped BlackBerry PlayBook later this year, presumably with the company's BlackBerry 10 operating system, which he said was nearing completion. In the interim, and for the next couple of years, RIM will continue to actively develop and support the BlackBerry 7 operating system, which is a key part of RIM's continuing efforts globally to shift users from feature phones to smartphones.
And Heins laid to rest what he said were surprising conclusions by reporters and bloggers that RIM's distinctive physical keypad would be missing from the upcoming BlackBerry 10 phone models. "Will there be a physical keypad option in the BlackBerry 10 portfolio?" a reporter asked.
"The physical keypad will be an option in the BlackBerry 10 portfolio," he replied.
In remarks earlier Heins said, "There was no comment [at the Tuesday keynote] that 'we will not build physical keypads,'" he said. "We're the best physical keypad on the planet. We only showed one element of BlackBerry 10 [a demo of a all-touch prototype unit]. There are many others. We're not going to lose the focus on physical keypads."
Heins has been CEO for just 12 weeks. He took charge of RIM's hardware products when he joined the company in 2007, and then gained responsibilities to keep BlackBerry 7 on track when development ran into problems, and then to deliver the PlayBook OS, the forerunner of BB10. That background, his comments at this week's BlackBerry World keynote and the brief exchange with reporters suggest that there's a tough core of determination and competitive drive under his laid-back, quiet-spoken mannerisms.
He'll need every bit of it. In response to a question, Heins reiterated that he had been surprised by the depth and breadth of RIM's difficulties after becoming CEO.
In his previous executive roles, "I was focused on what I was supposed to do," he said. "The CEO role is a broader one. That's when I had access to all the data... But I'm excited about the progress my management team has accomplished in three months.
Heins will complete that changeover, along with other changes to streamline RIM's management structure, with the hiring of a chief marketing officer and COO.
RIM's fast growth in years past created bureaucracy, redundancy, a loss of accountability and most of all a loss of focus, he said.
Heins has concluded after extensive and in-depth talks, especially with users, that RIM's target customers are those with a common denominator of "striving to succeed in what they are trying to do." In a mobile connected world, these people are struggling to manage the information and "channels" that they're now part of.
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