RIM CEO sees new BlackBerry powering growth

A new line of BlackBerry 10 devices will provide Research In Motion with a framework for growth over the next decade, offering long-term value for unhappy shareholders, Chief Executive Thorsten Heins said on Wednesday.

Research in Motion President and Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins discusses the upcoming release of BlackBerry 10 during an interview at the RIM offices in Waterloo

In an interview with Reuters, Heins said RIM had identified $800 million of the $1 billion of savings it promised for the financial year ending in early March, and was confident of finding the rest as it gets ready to launch the new phones.

RIM is betting that the new smartphones will help it claw back the market share it has lost to the likes of Apple Inc’s iPhone and devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.

Both consumers and corporate customers have abandoned the BlackBerry in droves, even though the devices offer security features that rivals have been unable to match.

“There’s this high-level security that you cannot walk away from, and then there’s ‘good enough’ security,” Heins said in an interview at RIM’s Waterloo, Ontario, campus, a sprawl of low-rise buildings.

But analysts remain skeptical, especially after the botched 2011 launch of RIM’s PlayBook tablet computer, which the company had hoped would compete with Apple’s wildly popular iPad. The PlayBook had top-of-the-line hardware, but its software was far from complete at the launch and needed multiple updates.

RIM delayed the roll-out of the BlackBerry 10 phones to the first quarter of 2013 so as not to repeat the errors that surrounded the PlayBook launch.

Heins said the delay was the correct decision – the way to ensure the BB10 phones are a high-quality product rather than a rushed one that would not meet customer expectations.

“I think it’s all lining up. Sometimes you get the feeling that the universe is in disarray, and with BlackBerry 10 coming, I see the stars lining up,” Heins said.

Sleek demo models

Sleek demo models of the new phones look much like the high-end smartphones in the market today, and company executives proudly showed off a touch-screen version and a version with the miniature QWERTY keyboard popular with many BlackBerry users.

Users flick a thumb or finger to maneuver from one program to another and can sneak a look at an incoming email while browsing the Internet or using other applications, a multi-tasking ability that RIM says rival devices lack.

Personal and business profiles can be kept separately, something RIM calls BlackBerry Balance. Corporations can erase only their share of the data on a device if they need to do so for security reasons, leaving personal photos, contacts and emails untouched.

The app library available at launch will not match the vast number available on other devices. Heins said RIM had chosen to focus on providing those apps needed in different regional markets. It expects some 100,000 apps to be ready at launch.

The developer community has been broadly enthusiastic about the devices. But financial analysts have mixed views on their likely reception in an ultra-competitive market.

Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette warned last week that BlackBerry 10 is likely to be dead on arrival – with an operating system that gets “a lukewarm response at best,” due to the unfamiliar user interface and a shortage of apps.

Shareholder value

Heins insisted morale was high at the company, despite 5,000 job cuts and a rapidly sliding market share ahead of the launch of the new phones.
RIM’s share price is down more than 90 percent from a 2008 peak of about $148. It has fallen even after Heins, a former Siemens AG executive, took over in January. The shares on Wednesday closed at $8.49 on Nasdaq.

“The message to our shareholders is that we understand this is and has been a difficult time for them and for us,” the tall, bespectacled CEO said. “But with the development of the BlackBerry 10 platform we are truly convinced that we will create long-term value for RIM’s shareholders and investors.”

RIM has already given the demo phones to developers and to carriers, and its new BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10, which runs the devices on corporate networks, is in beta testing with 20 key customers — both government agencies and corporates.

Next month, the company will give more than 50 top enterprise customers technical previews of both BES 10 and the devices.

Heins said the feedback he is getting from the customer base “is very encouraging.”

With the erosion of RIM’s base particularly strong in North America, there has been speculation the company could choose to launch the new phones in a region where the phones remain popular. Heins said that would not be the case.

“We cannot launch every carrier and every country on the same day, but what we have defined is a set of waves in the various regions,” he said. “It is going to be a global launch. There isn’t one preferred region. We are managing and planning it as we speak.”

REUTERS

RIM begins training of Nigerian app developers for BlackBerry

Research In Motion (RIM), makers of BlackBerry, has commenced a series of training for Nigerian app developers with the aim of helping them build capacity for BlackBerry’s new platforms.

The BlackBerry 10 Mini Jam developer forum will commence today (Tuesday) at the Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) facility in Lagos. The week-long programme will also feature sessions on BlackBerry developer training.

Announcing the training in a statement on Monday, RIM noted that the BlackBerry 10 Mini Jam would provide Nigerian developers, the opportunity to learn more about the unique capabilities of BlackBerry 10.

RIM’s Regional Director for East, West and Central Africa, Mr. Waldi Wepener, stated that the full-day schedule would provide insight into the BlackBerry 10 experience, architecture and tools that could help Nigerian developers to be among the first from around the world with capacity to create apps for the new platform.

Wepener said, “the BlackBerry platform provides significant opportunities for the developer community in Nigeria. There is high demand among developers to learn more about the tools for creating local services and apps on the BlackBerry platform, as well as a strong desire to reach the millions of BlackBerry customers around the world.”

He said the programme would be held at the CcHub lab as part of an agreement with RIM to support the BlackBerry developer community in the country.

“By partnering locally with the CcHub, we aim to share resources and knowledge to create even more opportunity for Nigerian developers and to help create more jobs.”

CcHub is Nigeria’s first IT think-tank lab and it provides a place for technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, technology companies, investors, developers and enthusiasts in and around Lagos to create new solutions that can help enhance the everyday life and work in Nigeria.

The statement further reveals that beyond the BlackBerry 10 Mini Jam, RIM and CcHub will also host a series of BlackBerry Developer Days throughout 2012.

BlackBerry Developer Days will provide information about developing for the BlackBerry Java platform, as well as BlackBerry 10.

Blackberry maker hands layoff notices to workers

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has started to hand out layoff notices after it said on Friday it would cut an unspecified number of jobs, a local newspaper said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Canadian company could not be reached immediately to confirm the report in the Waterloo Region Record, which serves the Ontario city where RIM is headquartered.

The report gave no specific numbers on the layoff notices, but noted that RIM employs about 17,500 workers globally, including 9,000 in the Waterloo region.

Shares of RIM, which once dominated the business segment of the smartphone market, have dropped about 27 percent since it revealed dismal quarterly results and lowered its full-year outlook on Friday.

The stock is down more than 50 percent this year after a series of missteps as it tries to keep pace with Apple Inc and other innovators in the smartphone and tablet computer markets.

REUTERS

Apple, Sony, RIM and others sued by Graphics Properties Holdings

Apple, Sony and four other companies were sued by Graphics Properties Holdings, formerly known as Silicon Graphics, for allegedly infringing a patent through their sale of mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The lawsuits against Apple, Taiwan-based HTC Corp, South Korea-based LG Electronics Inc and Samsung Electronics Co., BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd and Japan’s Sony Corp were filed in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The patent at issue relates to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on screens.

According to the lawsuits, the defendants’ infringing devices include Apple’s iPhone and the HTC EVO4G, LG Thrill, Research in Motion Torch, Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony Xperia Play smartphones.

Graphics Properties said that unless the alleged infringements are halted, it will suffer irreparable harm. The lawsuits seek to stop the sale of infringing products and also seek reasonable royalties and other damages.

LG spokesman John Taylor said that company does not generally discuss pending legal matters. A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The remaining companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Silicon Graphics filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sold much of its operations to Rackable Systems Inc. The remaining operations are based in New Rochelle, New York, and are owned by private investment firms and other investors, according to the complaints.

The lawsuits are all in the U.S. District Court, District of Delaware.