Heins said the company would have to regain market share in the U.S. for BlackBerry to be successful. The U.S. has been one market in which RIM has been particularly hurting, even as the company is doing well in many places overseas. According to research firm IDC, shipments of BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46 percent of the U.S. market in 2008 to 2 percent in 2012. The iPhone and Android now dominate.
Heins, who one year ago replaced longtime executives who had presided over BlackBerry’s fall, said he’s confident BlackBerry can become a third choice behind the iPhone and Android.
“We need to win back market share to be relevant,” Heins said. “We have to be aggressive in the U.S. market.”
To send a message that the BlackBerry is back, RIM ran an ad during Sunday’s Super Bowl game in the U.S. suggesting that there’s so much the new phones could do, it’d be easier to list the outlandish things that they can’t. The Canadian company is also in the process of changing its name to BlackBerry to emphasize that brand.
Some analysts have questioned RIM’s decision to release a touch-only version first considering that its most loyal users love the physical keyboard for typing.
Heins said the full touch screen was more complicated, so the company needed to focus on releasing that first. He has also acknowledged that RIM failed to quickly adapt to the emerging “bring your own device” trend, in which employees bring their personal touch-screen iPhones or Android devices to work instead of relying on BlackBerrys issued by their employers
Heins said the company wants to participate in that trend by releasing a touch version first.
Heins also addressed possible interest other companies might have in RIM should BlackBerry 10 prove successful and whether the Canadian government might block a foreign takeover.
“The recognition for BlackBerry 10 and what we built is pretty high. We got good reviews,” he said. “That moves you into the middle of the radar screen so I expect some activity around it but we’ll look at it one by one. We’ll assess it and we’ll make decisions with the board on what make sense.”
Heins recently chatted with top Canadian government officials, including the industry minister, at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“These guys are reasonable, rational people. At the end of the day, it’s about employment. It’s about economic health. It’s about Canada playing a major role,” Heins said. “If the right logic and rational applies, I don’t think they will just block it for their own sake. They could have done it with Nortel and the patents.”
Several months ago, RIM’s decline evoked memories of Nortel, a former Canadian tech giant, which declared bankruptcy in 2009 and was picked over for its patents. For RIM, the lengthy delays releasing the new BlackBerry system helped wipe out more than $70 billion in shareholder wealth and 5,000 jobs.