BlackBerry Exec Exits As Questions About License Deal Emerge
May 25, 2012

BlackBerry Exec Exits As Questions About License Deal Emerge

Peter Suciu for

On Friday, Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) announced that its London-based head of global sales has stepped down. Patrick Spense is just the latest management change at the embattled smartphone maker, which has seen its market share erode in recent years.

According to a company spokesperson, Spence is leaving RIM to pursue another industry position, but no further details were provided. Spence - whose role at the company included helping roll out that latest line of BlackBerry handsets — had been with RIM for 14 years.

“Patrick will be taking on a leadership position in a different industry,” a RIM spokesperson said in a prepared statement released on Friday.

According to reports this week, RIM´s sales team will eventually report to Kristian Tear, the company´s incoming operating officer. But since she won´t be starting until later this summer, the division will now report directly to Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins, who also has only been at his post since January.

In that time he´s grappled with falling sales for the once dominant smartphone brand. So popular was BlackBerry in its heyday that it earned the moniker “CrackBerry” for its seemingly addictive qualities that had business world types embraced, such as continually checking email, browsing the web and messaging colleagues through the BlackBerry Messenger.

The personnel shakeup at RIM wasn´t the only news garnering headlines on Friday. According to CNET, RIM had considered licensing the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) last year, prior to Heins´ shifted focus for the smartphone maker.

Reports suggest that RIM executives, as late as the beginning of this year, considered licensing BBM to device makers and carriers, and the platform was to be called SMS 2.0. It was to be made available for both Android and iOS handsets.

The twist here of course is that it is that the iPhone (running iOS) and the numerous Android devices that have chipped away at BlackBerry´s supremacy in the smartphone market.

This licensing proposition also explains, at least in part, why RIM acquired messaging firm LiveProfile according to the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The move was reportedly approved by the former co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, who believed that the licensing could enhanced RIM´s chances of competing in the changing marketplace.

Reuters reported last month that Balsillie was also working on a plan that would have opened RIM´s network to the carriers — thus bringing the “CrackBerry” aspects of BlackBerry to numerous platforms.

However, when Heins became RIM´s new CEO this year it appears that he ditched the plans to license BBM and instead looked to realign the company´s focus towards new devices including the BlackBerry 10, which was semi-unveiled at last month´s BlackBerry World conference in Florida.

The question now is whether RIM can turn things around with BlackBerry 10. RIM´s sales fell 25 percent last year, while its revenue fell by more than 50 percent. While it was once a dominant player in the smartphone market, it now has just 12 percent of the share, making it a distance third in the industry according to ComScore Inc. By contrast the iPhone now commands 31 percent of the share, while Android maintains 51 percent market share.