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Will BlackBerry 10 Provide a "Steve Jobs Moment" for RIM's CEO?

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January 28, 2013 3:14 pm
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Will BlackBerry 10 Provide a "Steve Jobs Moment" for RIM's CEO?

From now until the end of time (or at least the end of this century), the media will compare tech company CEOs to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) co-founder Steve Jobs. Thorsten Heins, the head honcho at Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM), is one of many leaders to receive this comparison. Bloomberg‘s Hugo Miller thinks that BlackBerry 10 will provide Heins with a “Steve Jobs moment.”

“Just as Steve Jobs returned to Apple Inc. in 1997 and breathed life into the company with a fresh approach and new products, Heins has already made his mark since taking over a year ago,” Miller wrote this morning. “He cut 30 percent of RIM’s workforce, hired marketing and sales chiefs, and expanded cash reserves to $2.9 billion.”

Indeed, if BlackBerry 10 is wildly successful, maintains its position as the number-three OS and endangers the future growth of its competitors (iOS and Android), Heins will have had a very Steve Jobs-esque “moment.”

In order for that to occur, Research In Motion will have to start by selling a large enough number of phones to command media headlines for a day or two. Apple does this on an annual basis. In 2011, the iPhone 4S sold more than four million units during its first weekend of availability; in 2012, the iPhone 5 sold five million units during its first weekend. The iPhone 5 earned another batch of headlines after Apple announced that it had sold two million units in China — also in one weekend.

Research In Motion does not need to sell six million smartphones to get the media’s attention. In fact, it might not even have to sell one million units to gain a few headlines. However, it must sell a substantial number of units.

The specific number has yet to be determined. Analysts will make their best guesses after Research In Motion announces the specific details this week, but the company may remain quiet for some time.

Research In Motion could take a risk and say how many it expects to sell over the next month or two. In doing so, it will provide analysts — and most of all investors — with a number to argue over and complain about if BlackBerry 10 fails.

An immediate, first-weekend failure would not be the end for Research In Motion. If the devices are good enough, BlackBerry 10 could grow slowly over time — just like the first-generation iPad and the first-generation iPod Touch.

In that event, investors will be faced with a tough decision: should they sell now and avoid the potential for future losses, or stick around and hope the ship doesn’t sink?

Whatever happens, Heins is lucky he works for the underdog. While the media is on BlackBerry’s side, there is a whole world of consumers that are largely unaware of what Research In Motion is trying to accomplish. This could prove to be beneficial (people love to be surprised by an underdog) — but only if the company delivers a device that consumers actually care about.

Follow me @LouisBedigianBZ


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