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Analysts: RIM's New CEO Is Just Window Dressing

BlackBerry just made its biggest executive change in nearly 30 years, but Wall Street and industry analysts agree it wasn't nearly big enough. (See RIM Co-Chairs Step Down.) "It looks like window dressing," says Ovum Ltd. analyst Jan Dawson of former COO Thorsten Heins's appointment. "'Fine, we'll give you a new CEO, but not a new strategy or change in direction.' [Outgoing Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie] are still there behind the scenes pulling the strings, while he's the figurehead."

Dawson's comments come as RIM's new CEO Heins said on a media call Monday that he that he'd stick to the plan outgoing co-CEOs put into motion and step up marketing instead. RIM's stock fell nearly 6 percent after the call. (See New RIM CEO: We Must Execute Better and RIM CEO Says No 'Seismic' Change Coming.)

"Marketing is a weak point for them right now, but it just seems like their entire strategy needs to be changed," agrees Pyramid Research analyst Emily Smith. To date RIM's focused on targeting the "prosumer," or the tech-savvy user who requires top security and lots of enterprise functionality, not the mass consumer market, she says.

"Now that the tech guys aren’t making the purchasing decisions anymore, they're losing market share and their sales are declining," Smith adds.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) have been able to keep up changing IT buying dynamics, according to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, whereas RIM hasn't. He agrees that someone with a stronger consumer background would have have fit the bill for CEO more than Heins, whose roots are at Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE).

"We frankly would not be surprised to see RIMM implement further senior management changes in the future," Wu wrote in a research note.

Will RIM be an Apple, a Nokia or an HP?
RIM isn't the first company to change its executive structure in the past year. HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) added an outside exec as CEO, which many said that RIM should have done, but so far hasn't done much besides flip-flop on its mobile strategy. (See 2011 Top Ten: Corporate Gloom & Doom.)

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), too, brought in an outsider in Stephen Elop, but has struggled to make a change quickly enough, a path RIM is well on its way to taking. (See Nokia Unveils Major Revamp and Euronews: Crunch Time for Nokia's Lumia.)

But, Apple also made a change from within, appointing its COO, Tim Cook, as CEO, replacing the late Steve Jobs. This is the "other fruit company" RIM clearly wants to emulate, but it won't come from just focusing its marketing. (See Steve Jobs Resigns as Apple CEO.)

"COO-to-CEO transitions makes sense if the vision is clear and what's really needed is good execution," Ovum's Dawson says. "RIM needs a better vision and a better execution. Handing it over to the guy who hasn't done a great job on execution without a clearer vision just doesn't make sense."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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