BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion is attempting a counter-offensive against perceptions that it is circling the drain. The pushback includes a wave of interviews recently undertaken by CEO Thorsten Heins to counter the idea that the venerable Canadian company is going down.
Last week, for instance, Heins gave a radio interview, wrote op-eds for two newspapers in Canada, and conducted a Q&A session on a newspaper Web site. "There's nothing wrong with the company as it exists right now," he has said in those appearances.
'Path to the Future'
While Heins has expressed optimism about his company's future, he has also been careful to distinguish between optimism and a realistic assessment of the situation. "I'm not happy with the situation at RIM either," he has said. But, he added, he's satisfied with "a path to the future with BlackBerry 10."
On June 28, Heins announced a first-quarter loss of $518 million, with sales down $4.9 billion from the same quarter a year ago. At the same time, he said the company would be laying off about 5,000 employees. RIM's stock price has dropped more than 70 percent over the last year, with 19 percent of that loss in the period since June 28.
In addition, RIM had been saying for months that its BlackBerry 10 devices would launch later this year, but on June 28 said the release would not happen until January. Heins has said the RIM team was "overwhelmed" with the task of integrating "feature components and building blocks."
But the company is also setting new, higher expectations. Richard Piasentin, the head of RIM in the U.S., has said that his company isn't interested in simply "iterating an existing OS," but instead wants to "build a new mobile computing platform to empower people in a way they didn't think possible."
Corporate Backup Plans
A report in Sunday's New York Times raised the possibility of shareholder lawsuits, based on possible willful misrepresentation. The Times quoted Jean-Louis Gassee, former president of Apple's products division and currently a venture capitalist, who said that "when the CEO says there's nothing wrong with the company as it is, it's not cautious, it doesn't make sense."
RIM has issued a statement denying it is misleading investors, and saying it is "well aware of its disclosure obligations under applicable securities laws." Expectations about the next shareholder meeting, which takes place on Tuesday, are not helped by the fact that the meeting will take place in Waterloo -- Canada, that is, which is RIM's home base.
Meanwhile, there are reports that various corporate customers are actively exploring backup plans in the event that RIM service is not available -- a particularly ominous sign, since enterprises remain RIM's best market.
For example, Bloomberg News reports that Bob Tinker, the CEO of California-based mobile software provider MobileIron, said that "CIOs are now asking us: 'What do we do if RIM gets acquired or if they restructure?'" Tinker said he has set up a meeting with RIM to seek assurances that there will not be a service disruption if RIM is acquired.