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RIM CEO: 'I run the company,' 80-90 percent of US BlackBerrys running older OS (update)

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RIM CEO Thorsten Heins engaged in a bit of damage control, trying to put a clearer spin on earlier statements that he would not significantly change the company.

Thorsten Heins RIM_1020
Thorsten Heins RIM_1020

New RIM CEO Thorsten Heins is continuing his media assault, speaking to The Wall Street Journal about his plans for changing RIM. While his earlier comments were all about continuity, lately Heins is backpedaling a bit and emphasizing some changes that will come now that Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis aren't running the company anymore. On that front, Heins says that the board is behind him "1,000 percent," but that doesn't mean he's going to follow the exact same path as his predecessors: "Make no mistake: what goes into [future products] is my decision, [...] I run the company." It has been said that Lazaridis, in particular, had gotten bogged down in details while he was a co-CEO, something Heins says won't be a problem now, that he can "go visionary again." Heins intends to accelerate the pace of product development, but given that the current roadmap doesn't have BlackBerry 10 devices arriving until late in 2012, he will have his work cut out for him.

Heins also admitted that RIM faces significant challenges in the US, adding he hopes that a new chief marketing officer could help there. That mirrors statements that Heins has made before, but he put a fine point on the issue by revealing that an internal review showed that 80 to 90 percent of US BlackBerry owners don't own devices that run BlackBerry 7. That's a problem for RIM for several reasons: users aren't upgrading or buying higher-margin devices, the vast majority of its users aren't getting the best possible BlackBerry experience (including the improved BB7 browser), and finally those devices can't run BB7 as RIM can't push the update out to them.

That last problem makes it clear just how much work Heins has before him: customers with RIM's older, cheaper devices will upgrade soon enough, and right now RIM doesn't have its next-generation product ready for them.

Update: Did we mention Heins is on a media offensive? In an interview with Reuters, he said that the intends to "present my ideas and changes" to the RIM board in two weeks. He called those changes "significant," which is clearly different than the line he toed during interviews on the day he took the new position. Heins also promised that BlackBerry 10 phones would be available for the 2012 holiday season. In the meantime, he will begin an "upgrade program" to deal with the aforementioned issue of US customers holding on to older BlackBerry smartphones instead of buying newer BB7 devices.