Will a change in hierarchy really matter for RIM?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| January 3, 2012

Ready for some more bad news? At this point it just has to be exciting to hear what comes out Waterloo these days, right? After all, while some positive news would be great and unorthodox at this point, we’ve all just kind of become expectant of the bad. So, here’s more: Research In Motion’s co-CEO team of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie may be losing their positions as chairman of the board very, very soon.

The report, which came out of the Financial Post earlier today, suggests that RIM may be looking to get 2012 off on a different foot than the last couple of years. It suggests that the executives at RIM are set to dislodge Lazaridis and Balsillie from their current positions as chairman of the board, and inject some fresh blood. Fresh, in that it isn’t the two of them. Their pick? Barbara Stymiest, who joined RIM’s board back in 2007. The name also came up last year, when a shift in management was talked about, but never followed through with.

So, that’s the bad news. Is it worse than any of the news that we’ve heard recently? That really depends, to be honest. We’ve all assumed that something would happen to the hierarchy of RIM at some point in the future, so the news coming down the pipe that something like this could happen here shortly isn’t surprising. Perhaps that isn’t the right question we should be asking today, after this news breaks. What we should be asking, is if it even matters anymore.

And I don’t mean that in the sense of, “Can RIM make a comeback?” Because, honestly, I think the ingenuity and skill, along with the backbone of previous history is there. I don’t think that has anything to do with it. Honestly, at the start of 2012, and while I hate to admit it, I think BlackBerry has lost its place as a household name. At least, for the majority consumer. Sure, it’s still there in plenty of people’s hearts, and people like me want RIM to not only survive but flourish. But, in the real world, the iPhone and Android have capitalized on the losses that RIM has succumbed to.

But, if RIM wants to really make a point in 2012 that they’re still around, then they need a miracle at this point. RIM expects their BB10 devices to all be Halo devices. Not only will they be the smartphone that brings together QNX/BlackBerry OS software from their tablet device, the PlayBook; but it will also be the device that resurrects the BlackBerry name. In 2012, RIM wants their name to be the name that people turn to again, and not just the corporate world, either. But the mainstream customer, too. Which means that the BlackBerry name has a lot to do in 2012, and almost an impossible feat to accomplish: woo the average iOS and Android user away from what they’ve grown accustomed to, and show them why the BlackBerry name means anything at all.

And that’s why I don’t think this shift of chairman of the board makes any bit of difference. In all honesty, while I know people who love BlackBerry, I know they wouldn’t switch to it from their iPhone, or Android device. I know they wouldn’t. And BBM, BlackBerry Messenger, isn’t a strong enough feature on its own merits to warrant a huge switch anymore, either. There are applications out there that do the same thing. iOS now has iMessage. These things exist to make it harder for RIM, if nothing else – and they’re succeeding in this regard.

Anything is possible. I’m not ever going to say that RIM is definitively done, until they announce they are done. I’m never a fan of a legacy item dropping off the map, and that’s the same for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry. But, the options that both Taylor and I have proposed in the past aren’t impossibilities, RIM, and it would mean you’re still in the game, doing what you love.

Will it matter? We can certainly hope so.