The shift in management at BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) announced over the weekend is, as I previously discussed, a step in the right direction. No more Co-Presidents/Co-Chairmen/Co-CEOs nonsense. But the two gentlemen who previously held all those titles remain on the Board of Directors, as perhaps they might given their large percentage of ownership in the firm. But with their continuing presence and influence, however (one of them is even heading up a new "Innovation Council" and will remain Vice-Chairman; both of these are bad ideas), it is not clear whether the new management team will really be free to take the bold steps required to re-build the company's image. Wall Street is unimpressed; as I write this RIM's stock is down by more than 6% today - and 75% over the past year.
Note that I say image here - there is nothing fundamentally wrong with BlackBerry products, other than the engineering department there, oddly enough formerly headed by the new CEO in the role of Chief Operating Officer, Product Engineering (and what's the deal with all the crazy titles at RIM?), seems to have a hard time setting and meeting viable schedules. Again, while sales in the US are falling off due to more contemporary platforms (iOS and Android, to be specific) grabbing both mindshare and market share, the upcoming BlackBerry 10 OS platform appears to be at least competitive and a concerted application of marketing (a new Chief Marketing Officer will be hired, according to the new CEO) should help to stabilize things.
But, OK - that new CEO has been with the company for some time as is noted above, and the new Chairman was also previously on the Board. You can see why most analysts I've heard today believe that we're seeing a re-arranging of the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic, and that nothing has really changed.
Well, something better change. I don't think that a new OS alone will have much impact on sales, so, if that's the plan, it's a bad one. The company really should have brought in an marketing/sales-focused outsider as the new CEO, and the current Board really should have been dismissed for allowing the firm's problems to fester. Still - let's give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment - similar actions were taken by Cisco just a few months ago, and that stock is up almost 50%.
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.