Struggling BlackBerry Seeks Partners, Fires U.S. Sales Head

Struggling BlackBerry Seeks Partners, Fires U.S. Sales Head

Is BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins' seat getting hotter as the company's sales stall?

Regardless of whether BlackBerry (BBRY) returns to its former self as a formidable competitor in the mobile market, there’s no denying that chief executive Thorsten Heins’ seat is getting hotter as he pulls out all the stops to resurrect the company.

Speaking to investors at BlackBerry’s shareholder meeting last week, he again said he’s thinking past licensing the device maker’s BlackBerry 10 operating system—which so far hasn’t gone anywhere—to bigger, wider implications, such as automakers, although he’s mentioned that before as well, and it hasn’t gone anywhere, either.

But Heins has ideas and now he wants partnerships and maybe investors—engagements that can help rebuild the company’s slipping installed base and extend the reach of its software, applications and services.

“Don’t think just narrowly in terms of licensing,” he said of the BlackBerry 10 platform. “It could go into cars, so think broad,” he said.

In the last few months, Heins has signaled his intention to think wider, with plans to release BlackBerry’s popular BBM messaging service for Android and iOS platforms as a free app for users, and reworking the vendor’s Partner Support Services (BPSS) program to better assist partners to provide support and services to customers.

He’ll likely need more of that and then some to move BlackBerry forward.

On the heels of an $84 million loss last quarter with more losses expected this quarter—and one year removed from cutting 5,000 jobs—Heins said he’s more interested in “really trimming and slimming” BlackBerry than in lopping more positions from the employee rolls. But a new internal cost-cutting program called Polaris, which aims to streamline the company’s operations, may include more job cuts in middle-level management, sales and support, according to reports.

BlackBerry only just confirmed that last month it fired its U.S. sales organization chief Richard Piasentin, ostensibly for the tepid response to the Z10, with sales particularly sluggish in the United States. So far no new sales head has been named to replace Piasentin.

Heins reportedly asked investors for patience at the shareholder meeting, contending the company’s BlackBerry 10 platform products have only been on the market since February, not much time to measure the company’s prospects for success based on its current strategy.

“BlackBerry is still in the early phases of our transition,” he said. “This isn’t just the launch of a new product but a whole new platform.”

At some point—and it may be coming soon—Heins' “we’re working on it” argument may wear too thin on BlackBerry’s investors.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.