Ina Fried

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Investors Must Wait to See Impact of RIM’s Changes, But Some Employees May Not Last That Long

It will take some matter of months to really see if the course charted by new RIM CEO Thorsten Heins will help turn things around at the troubled phone maker.

Some employees, though, will feel the impact more immediately. Heins noted on the conference call Thursday that he plans to reorganize things right away, with a new leadership structure to be announced today.

RIM made a couple of organizational changes already, announcing the departure of longtime executives David Yach and Jim Rowan, as well as the fact that former chief Jim Balsillie was leaving the board. But the changes are expected to go deeper than that.

The Globe and Mail reported on Thursday that the company was also slashing some executive positions at the vice president and senior vice president level. RIM didn’t announce those moves, though Heins did make reference to RIM having too complex a structure and not enough accountability.

RIM is apparently not planning to announce the additional moves, characterizing them as involving more the “working level” than the executive leadership.

Heins did say that he has been searching for a new marketing chief, and expects to have something to announce soon. In addition, Heins said he wants to hire a new chief operating officer with sole responsibility for operations management.

The real question, though, is whether any of the moves will help the company crank out phones and tablets that are more competitive than those it put out over the last few years.

Heins did finally acknowledge that some fundamental change was needed — something his predecessors had long refused to admit. Even Heins himself suggested, upon taking the helm, that no major shift was necessary.

Those initial impressions, Heins conceded, were not supported by the facts he has since learned in his 10 weeks on the job.

Just what exactly RIM will do differently is unclear. Heins made it clear that nothing is off the table — from licensing the operating system to partnering with another hardware company.

Heins also said that RIM can’t afford to try to be all things to all people.

The question remains, though, what exactly RIM will try to do.

Heins made reference to scaling back on some of the consumer services it had been incubating, and a focus on the company’s strengths around the enterprise and security.

The company also indicated that it will try to survive the time until its new BlackBerry 10 operating system arrives with a line of new low-end devices aimed at international markets.

But the real question is what RIM really has cooking with the new operating system, how quickly it arrives, and whether it is really ready to compete with the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, all of which continue to rapidly improve in their own right.

The first hint should come in May, when the company offers developers prototype hardware running an early version of the operating system, in an effort to make sure that its app store is not bare at launch.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle