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Lazaridis will take on a new role as vice chairman of RIM’s board and chairman of the board’s new innovation committee. Balsillie remains a member of the board. The two remain two of RIM’s biggest shareholders.

“I agree this is the right time to pass the baton to new leadership, and I have complete confidence in Thorsten, the management team and the company,” Balsillie said in the statement. “I remain a significant shareholder and a director and, of course, they will have my full support.”

Analysts have said RIM’s future depends on its new software platform as RIM has tried and failed to reinvigorate the BlackBerry.

RIM said last month that new phones deemed critical to the company’s future would be delayed until late this year. And its PlayBook tablet, RIM’s answer to the Apple iPad, failed to gain consumer support, forcing the company to deeply discount it to move the devices off store shelves.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said in late 2010 that RIM would have a hard time catching up to Apple because RIM has been forced to move beyond its area of strength and into unfamiliar territory of trying to become a software platform company.

BlackBerrys made email mobile and were dominant in the North American smartphone market until the iPhone came along. Under Lazaridis and Balsillie, the company struggled to adjust to the times and match the iPhone’s facility with Web browsing, third-party applications and multimedia.

Heins, who is 54, said Lazaridis and Balsillie took RIM in the right direction and they are “more confident than ever that was the right path.”

Barbara Stymiest, a former chief operating officer of the Royal Bank of Canada who has been a member of RIM’s board since 2007, has been named chair of the board of directors. RIM also announced that Prem Watsa, the chief executive of Fairfax Financial Holdings, is a new board member. Watsa has become a significant shareholder.

Lazaridis said he was so confident in the future direction of the company that he intends to purchase an additional $50 million of the company’s shares on the open market.

RIM was worth more than $70 billion a few years ago but now has a market value of around $8.2 billion. Some industry analysts believe RIM is following the same trajectory as struggling Finish handset maker Nokia or former Canadian tech giant Nortel, which declared bankruptcy in 2009.

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis agrees that a change in marketing is needed, but it will take more than that to reverse the decline. Gillis said the move is two years late and said he’ll get more excited when RIM announces positive news about their new software platform.

“It’s just a shuffling of the deck,” Gillis said. “He’s got a pretty rough road to drive up. The other part is that Mike and Jim are still around. Think about Jerry Yang in Yahoo. When he finally stepped down people said he was still a really big influence on the company.”

Stuart Jeffrey at Nomura Securities said the management switch could remove an obstacle toward selling the company, but still believes a buyer is unlikely to surface. The value of the company is uncertain, since the new operating system, BlackBerry 10, is unproven.

Private-equity buyers might be enticed to buy the company for its cash flow, he said, but the fair value for the company is about $15 per share on that basis, meaning private-equity firms are unlikely to pay much above $10.

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