Big Changes for BlackBerry as RIM Backs Away from Consumer Market

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Mike Cassese / Reuters

When Thorsten Heins took over as CEO of Research in Motion at the start of 2012, the BlackBerry phone maker seemed very much in denial about its troubles.

Not anymore. Speaking to investors following another dismal quarter, Heins announced major changes for the company. As All Things Digital reports, RIM plans to refocus on the enterprise market after years of failing to keep up with Android phones and Apple’s iPhone in the consumer market.

(MORE: RIM Director to BlackBerry Critics: No, You’re the Idiots)

The shift in focus comes along with big managerial shake-ups. RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie, who moved from co-CEO to the company’s board of directors when Heins took over, is stepping down. (RIM’s other co-founder, Mike Lazaridis, is staying on.) COO Jim Rowan and CTO David Yach are also leaving the company. RIM has also been looking for a new chief marketing officer.

Meanwhile, Heins said RIM is looking into licensing its upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system or other technology. Doing so would allow other hardware makers to build phones based on BlackBerry software, or to include features that were once exclusive to BlackBerry devices, such as BlackBerry Messenger.

Although RIM wants to focus on enterprise, the company still seems to be interested in the mass market, with Heins saying he wants to make BlackBerry 10 competitive. But the company will likely give up on some aspects of the consumer market, such as media services, and will instead partner with other companies to fill in the gaps. (That makes me wonder whether RIM will court a company like Amazon to provide content on BlackBerry devices.)

RIM still plans to launch BlackBerry 10 phones toward the end of the year. The company didn’t talk about its tablet plans, but the company has now shipped 1.3 million BlackBerry PlayBooks, thanks to deep price cuts.

Still, if all else fails, Heins hasn’t ruled out selling the company. If, during a strategic review, the company was led in the direction of a possible sale, “we would consider it,” Heins said.

My main takeaway is that RIM doesn’t know exactly what it wants to do, but recognizes that it can’t keep doing what’s been doing. That may not be particularly comforting to loyal customers and shareholders, but for RIM it’s a big step up from insisting that everything’s peachy. For everyone else, RIM’s next year is going to be very interesting to watch.

(MORE: The Tragic Decline of BlackBerry)