Only drastic change can save RIM now

FEW in the telecoms industry will mourn the departure of Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. As co-chairmen and co-CEOs of BlackBerry maker RIM, the pair wielded far too much power over the troubled handset maker.

It was an open secret that the chief executives of the big network operators found it incredibly hard to do business with them. For years now, they have been telling the company that BlackBerrys were not up to scratch when compared to rival handsets such as the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy.

Last year, the firm lurched from disaster to disaster. Millions of users were unable to access their emails for three days, after a blackout downed the firm’s servers. The PlayBook tablet – billed as an iPad killer – was the dampest squib imaginable, and RIM was forced to take a charge of $485m after writing off almost the entire value of its inventory. Its share price lost three quarters of its value as its market share quickly dwindled

Appointing a new management will not solve the problem in and of itself. New boss Thorsten Heins, who is moving up from the chief operating officer’s post, yesterday said the company was not in need of “drastic change”. He couldn’t be more wrong.

First, RIM should streamline the ridiculously large BlackBerry range, and pursue a relentless focus on winning back the high-margin business customers that matter most.