RIM: No, We’re Not Exiting the Consumer Market

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Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his wife Doris enjoy the company of two BlackBerry devices in a 2005 photo.

We plan to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on our leading position in this segment. We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we tried to be everybody’s darling and all things to all people. Therefore, we plan to build on our strength.

That’s RIM CEO Thorsten Heins talking yesterday, as he discussed some of the measures that the company is taking in the wake of its dismal quarterly earnings report. Some observers — including me —  interpreted the comments as indicating that the company planned to step back from the consumer market, thus ending its longtime strategy of going after both big companies and individual consumers.

Except that RIM is now saying it’s not that simple. With RIM, it often feels, nothing is ever simple.

Patrick Spence, its managing director of global sales and regional marketing, told British news site Pocket-Lint that “The claim that RIM has said it will withdraw from the consumer market is wholly inaccurate.” He says that the company will still go after “targeted consumer segments” but may seek partners for stuff such as media-consumption apps.

The bottom line, at least according to Spence, and at least as I understand it: No radical retreat from the consumer business is planned, but the company will winnow its efforts in some areas.

The proper way to judge RIM’s prospects is to wait until BlackBerry 10 handhelds ship later this year, and evaluate them then. But part of its recovery, if it comes, will involve the company doing a far better job of formulating a crisp strategy and communicating it in a way that isn’t subject to misinterpretation. (In the past, RIM’s explanations of its thinking have sometimes been literally incomprehensible.)

The BlackBerry PlayBook — touted both as the first professional-grade tablet and as a great gaming machine — is an example of what RIM does when it’s unclear on what it is. It isn’t pretty.

Or to borrow the words of Thorsten Heins, RIM can’t be everybody’s darling. The less it seems to be trying to do that, the better I’ll feel about its future.