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RIM's new CEO: who is Thorsten Heins?

RIM's new CEO: who is Thorsten Heins?


A profile of Thorsten Heins, the former RIM Chief Operating Officer who was recently promoted to CEO after a year of turmoil at the company.

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As RIM announced last night, the company is hoping to stem its precipitous decline with a change of leadership, appointing former Chief Operating Officer Thorsten Gerhard Heins to the position of CEO. Heins, who joined RIM the same year Apple released the first major BlackBerry competitor, has said he is "excited" to take charge of the company. But what has Heins done so far, and how might his background shape RIM's future?

The RIM executives have never been particularly public figures, and Heins is no exception. Besides a minimal profile on LinkedIn and the RIM site, he has little online presence — no public-facing Facebook page or Twitter feed. Heins himself is a fairly new addition to RIM, and in fact spent most of his career at Siemens, which he joined in 1984. According to the official BlackBerry blog and BusinessWeek, Heins began at Siemens in Research & Development, and later held positions as the general manager for several units, including the one for mobile applications. He also spent four years managing Siemens' wireless infrastructure in the US. By the time he left the company, he was serving as Chief Technology Officer for communications.

After joining RIM in 2007, Heins worked as the Senior Vice President of the BlackBerry Handheld division, then the COO of Product Engineering, a position that was expanded to COO of Product and Sales amid company-wide layoffs in July 2011. With a master's degree in physics from the University of Hanover, he comes from a technical background unlike that of former co-CEO Jim Balsillie, a Harvard MBA. And unlike Mike Lazaridis — who has served as a CEO of RIM since he founded it in 1984 — Heins has spent years working his way up through an established company.

Correspondingly, his proposed strategy for the company is conservative. During the announcement this morning, Heins emphasized "evolution" rather than drastic change, but said that the company needed to move away from "acting like a startup." Instead, he proposed a renewed focus on marketing and a sharp separation between prototyping and actual production, commenting that "sometimes we innovate too much while we are building a product." We're not sure we'd call RIM's biggest flaw an excess of innovation in any area, but hopefully the discipline Heins hopes to bring to the company will at least get the delayed BlackBerry 10 OS to market soon.