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BlackBerry Giving Up On The Consumer Market

Struggling BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd. said Thursday that it will cede most consumer markets after failing to compete with flashier touch-screen phones such as Apple's iPhone and models that run Google's Android software.

Instead, RIM said it will return to its roots and focus on business customers, many of whom prefer BlackBerrys for their security. RIM has had limited success trying to enter consumer markets in recent years, and RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said a turnaround required "substantial change."

"We plan to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on our leading position in this segment," Heins said. "We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we tried to be everybody's darling and all things to all people. Therefore, we plan to build on our strength."

Also Thursday, RIM said former co-CEO Jim Balsillie has resigned from its board. David Yach, chief technology officer for software, and Jim Rowan, chief operating officer for global operations, also are leaving in a management shakeup.

The Canadian company long dominated the corporate smartphone market and has sought to expand its appeal to consumers, but it has had trouble with consumers because the phones aren't perceived to be as sexy as its chief competitors.

BlackBerrys are known for their security and reliability as email devices, but they haven't kept pace with iPhones or Android phones when it comes to running third-party applications.

For that reason, BlackBerrys are even losing ground in the business world, as employees demand iPhones or Android devices over BlackBerrys.

Apple sold 37 million iPhones in the last three months of 2011 — more than what RIM shipped in the past three quarters combined. RIM shipped 11.1 million BlackBerrys in the latest quarter, which ended March 3.

RIM said it was exploring partnerships and other opportunities for its existing consumer business to focus on the corporate customers.

"We can't do everything ourselves, but we can do what we're good at," Heins said.

Asked about a possible sale of the company, Heins said "it is not the main direction we are pursuing right now."

Heins, who took over the company in January, made the remarks during a conference call after RIM announced quarterly results that fell short of Wall Street expectations.

Net loss was $125 million, or 24 cents a share, in the quarter that ended March 3. This compares with $934 million, or $1.78 per share, a year ago.

After excluding one-time items such as writedowns for the declining value of its brand and its PlayBook tablet inventory, adjusted income was 80 cents per share, a penny short of expectations from analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue fell 25 percent to $4.2 billion from $5.6 billion. Analysts were expecting $4.54 billion.


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