Newsmaker #1 Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry Ltd.

If 2013 proved anything for BlackBerry and its legion of supporters throughout Canada it was that Thorsten Heins was not the answer.

Heins was the CEO of BlackBerry Ltd., of Waterloo, Ont. for all of 22 months. While at the helm of the smartphone maker Heins uttered statements that included the phrases “death spiral” and “I don’t expect things to get much worse”. These sayings don’t make a case for him becoming the next Lou Gerstner. But, Heins does get the honour of being named CDN’s Top Newsmaker for 2013 for not being able to rescue BlackBerry despite announcing BlackBerry 10 and new devices that received more than its fair share of positive reviews.

Thorsten Heins
Thorsten Heins

Heins becomes the first German National to be named Newsmaker of the Year and the first Non-North American. Heins was forced out of the company in early November after a failed bid to take BlackBerry private. Heins was replaced by former Sybase Inc. chairman and CEO John Chen.

The results were not pretty BlackBerry stock hit another all-time low, it was forced to lay off thousands of staffers and the company’s future was put into question.
National Bank Financial analyst Kris Thompson noted: a number of potential bidders have been inside the tent looking at the books behind closed doors. “Nobody liked what they saw. Why should we?”

Heins wasn’t the only senior executive to leave. Kristian Tear, chief operating officer of BlackBerry and Frank Boulben, the company’s chief marketing officer, exited the company at about the same time.

What made Heins the top newsmaker in the Canadian IT channel is that he essentially squashed all hopes for a BlackBerry revival.

BlackBerry has some hope in 2013. First, there was the attempt by Fairfax to take BlackBerry private. BlackBerry needed to get out from under public investor scrutiny and expectation and execute a long-term strategy without ill-informed financial analysts that falsely expect them to be Apple peering over their shoulders. Going private would allow for much-needed breathing room.

Second, there was the strategic shift to focus on fewer phones, abandon the largely fruitless consumer play that has brought the company to the brink and seen it bang its head against the wall fighting Apple and Android, and focus on what it’s good at – the commercial space. It was another shift I’d long been hoping for. BlackBerry is still very good at building secure phones for enterprise users. Granted, it’s a fraction of the overall smartphone market, and one under pressure from the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, but there’s a solid market there and one BlackBerry can approach from a position of strength.

And, when he created positive news such as hiring superstar singer Alicia Keys to be BlackBerry’s new Global Creative Director it turned sour on him as the R&B artist and sometime actress sent out messages on her Apple iPhone.

It seemed that nothing he touched worked. And, the hope that BlackBerry did have at the start of the year started to become just little glimmers of hope. Those too started fading away because Heins was unable to get the job done. They only thing that is left is speculation on the company’s future survival and not about the products they make or the channel opportunities they presented.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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For over 25 years, CDN has been the voice of the IT channel community in Canada. Today through our digital magazine, e-mail newsletter, video reports, events and social media platforms, we provide channel partners with the information they need to grow their business.

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