TORONTO (AP) — The CEO of embattled BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. asked disgruntled investors for patience Tuesday as the company develops new devices to rival the iPhone and Android smartphones.
Thorsten Heins, who replaced longtime CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie in January, said the past year has been very difficult for RIM, as its once-pioneering BlackBerry devices lost market share to smartphones that do much more than email and phone calls.
RIM has been developing the BlackBerry 10 operating software to catch up with competitors and even surpass them, but the software has faced repeated delays. Devices running it will now miss the lucrative holiday shopping season. By the time they go on sale, RIM will have even more competition, including a new iPhone expected from Apple this fall.
Heins said the company has spent the past several months reorganizing operations and is working "around the clock" to get BlackBerry 10 out in the first quarter of 2013, a year after analysts had expected it.
"I want to assure you that I am not satisfied with the performance of the company over the past year," he told investors during RIM's annual shareholders meeting. "The management team and I have already instituted some major changes and there will be more as we work to turn around the company's performance."
Heins said the company will try to tap its strengths in corporate markets once new devices come out, but he warned that the benefits of BlackBerry 10 "will take time to have a meaningful impact on our performance." He reiterated that the next several quarters will be challenging for the company.
Heins said Tuesday that he expects the company will book another operating loss in the current quarter as the company cuts prices to sell its older BlackBerry models.
Analysts believe RIM is running out of time to turn itself around.
Sales of BlackBerry phones fell 41 percent in the most recent quarter and likely won't pick up again until new phones come out next year. By then, people will have even more choices, likely including a new iPhone and devices running the latest version of Google's Android software, called Jelly Bean. Phones running a revamped version of Microsoft's Windows system are also coming this fall.
Although BlackBerrys were once a staple in corporate environments because of their reputation for security and reliability, they've lost their cachet as iPhones demonstrated that smartphones are good for more than email. The BlackBerry's U.S. market share has plummeted from 41 percent in 2007, when the first iPhone came out, to less than 4 percent in the first three months of 2012, according to research firm IDC.
The shareholders meeting, which took place in RIM's hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, and was monitored by webcast, came less than two weeks after the company reported quarterly results that were worse than analysts had expected. It also said it will be cutting 5,000 jobs, or 30 percent of its workforce, and delaying the launch of BlackBerry 10 yet again.