Thorsten Talks: RIM CEO Sounds Off On Licensing, Updating Devices, And The U.S. Market

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Just because the first day of BlackBerry World is over doesn’t mean we mobile geeks have run out of BlackBerry-related tidbits to pick apart.

Oh, far from it — in fact, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins took the stage (again) earlier today for a long-running chat with the press, and he has since outed a few juicy new details about the company’s strategy going forward.

First, let’s take a quick look at the things RIM won’t be doing, shall we?

RIM will not be…


Updating your BlackBerry 7 device to BlackBerry 10

I’m really sorry if you ended up buying one of RIM’s BlackBerry 7 phones because Heins confirmed that the company will never bring BlackBerry 10 to those really-not-that-old devices. Instead, BlackBerry 7 — which, if you’ll recall was only launched late last year — will be kept around to power the inexpensive BlackBerry hardware that RIM will continue to pump into emerging markets.

Meanwhile, BlackBerry 10 will be slapped onto the rest of the company’s device portfolio, and maybe even on devices from other companies (more on that later).

Giving up on hardware keyboards:

I’ll admit that I’m a fan of the direction RIM is taking with their touchscreen keyboard, but BlackBerry purists can rest easy knowing that BlackBerry 10 devices with physical keyboards will become a reality at some point. Then again, while RIM has told us that the Dev Alpha device isn’t representative of a final BB10 phone, it would still come as a shock to see the company eschew an all-touch device in favor of a more traditional design when these things launch later in the year.

Abandoning the consumer space in favor of the enterprise market

RIM has said it before (most recently after their Q4 2011 earnings call), and they’ll say it again — it’s absolutely not true. Seriously, were people in the audience not paying attention to the company whose conference they showed up at? In fairness part of the confusion originally stemmed from a comment from Heins’ during said earnings call when he claimed the company would “focus on the enterprise” though representatives eventually chimed in to clarify his statement a bit. That said, RIM is pouring plenty of effort into enterprise offerings like Mobile Fusion, but I have to wonder how well that split focus will serve them down the line.

But RIM will be…

Pushing for a bigger piece of the U.S. Market.

Heins conceded that RIM is facing an uphill battle here in the States, but claimed that RIM wasn’t in the game just for laughs — they’re “here to win.” According to The Verge, Heins went so far as to claim that the company would regain some of its lost market share around these parts. Good luck, Mr. Heins; here’s hoping your plan to pick up domestic steam works better than Microsoft’s.

He also revealed that he was in the process of scouting for a chief marketing officer to help craft and focus RIM’s message going forward, which in polite terms could use a bit of work.

Exploring options for licensing BlackBerry 10

This doesn’t come as a huge shock, considering that the man who said this also candidly mentioned in an earnings call that he’d think about selling the company if it was the right thing to do. Nevertheless, Heins reiterated that he was open to the possibility, and confirmed that RIM was looking into two types of licensing — licensing the OS for other smartphones, and licensing it for “mobile computing” products.

Interestingly, Heins wondered aloud about the segmentation of BlackBerry 10, and specifically how to position the so-called “high performance” OS into those varying market segments. Could we soon see a low-end device from a third-party manufacturer running BlackBerry 10? Possibly, but Heins seems focused on making BlackBerry 10 a platform that’s actually worth using before getting too bogged down in licensing details.

Bringing a 4G PlayBook to market:

But you already knew that.