RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie to step down, replaced by COO Thorsten Heins

According to the Wall Street Journal, RIM plans to make a big change in its corporate leadership tomorrow, as it will replace its current tag team of CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie with the company’s COO, Thorsten Heins.

It has been rumored for some time that Lazaridis and Balsillie would be replaced in the near future, as shareholders have expressed their disappointment with the duo since the middle of last year. RIM has had a rough year, with sliding market share and declining stock prices. It doesn’t expect to launch new smartphones with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system until the latter part of this year.

In addition to acting as co-CEOs, Lazaridis and Balsillie also served as joint chairmen of the board. They will relinquish those positions as well, being replaced by board member Barbara Stymiest as chairman. Lazaridis will be vice chairman of the board, and Balsillie will remain a member of the board.

Taking the slot of CEO will be RIM’s little known COO, Thorsten Heins. Heins joined RIM in 2007, and has remained more or less behind the scenes as Lazaridis and Balsillie have received much of the attention brought upon the company. According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, Heins will stay the course with RIM’s plans to launch BlackBerry 10 later this year, and says that it will be a hit with consumers. Heins also hinted that RIM could license its software to other device makers – something that countless technology pundits and analysts have suggested the company do.

Reportedly, Lazaridis and Balsillie were not forced from their positions, but actually recommended the changes to the company’s leadership. It will remain to be seen whether or not these changes are what RIM needs to turn the company around and bring it back to the market leading position that it enjoyed in years past. However, if the plan doesn’t change, as suggested by the fact that it still is waiting until the later part of this year to release its next-generation platform, it will be very hard for the company to make a dent in the increasingly competitive smartphone market.

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