RIM marketing boss sees silver lining

A delay in the launch of new BlackBerrys will give retailers time to focus on the revamped smartphones.

A Blackberry Torch phone. Picture: blabla.co.za

TORONTO - A delay in the launch of the new generation of BlackBerrys until next year will give retailers more time to focus on the revamped smartphones once they hit store shelves, Research In Motion Ltd's new marketing chief said on Monday.

In the latest upbeat salvo in a week-long media blitz from the embattled company, Frank Boulben said the launch delay from late 2012 to early 2013 - after the crucial Christmas shopping season - would not be a death blow to RIM.

"The short delay is not detrimental if the quality is there when we launch early next year," Boulben told Reuters in a telephone interview on the eve of the company's annual meeting. "We will have much more attention and focus and ability to leverage our carriers."

RIM, which has hemorrhaged market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and devices using Google Inc's Android software, has launched an unprecedented drive to win back lost faith over the last week, including a radio appearance by CEO Thorsten Heins where he said there was "nothing wrong" with the company.

Heins also published an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail newspaper in which he said the new BlackBerrys, which the company insists will be better than anything now on the market, would "empower people as never before."

"We do not believe RIM is a company at the end," he wrote. "RIM is a company at the beginning of a transition that we expect will once again change the way people communicate."

RIM, whose BlackBerry devices were long the must-have gadgets for lawyers, politicians and the business community, had been without a chief marketing officer for over a year until Boulben joined a month ago.

In that time, the Canadian company muddled from one crisis to another, including a days-long global service outage and the cool reception afforded to its PlayBook tablet. The computer, launched in April 2011, lacked in-built email until February this year.

Last month the company reported a steep loss and announced deep job cuts, as well as the delay in the launch of its BlackBerry 10 devices, which start from scratch in terms of software code and integration with RIM's secure network.

Boulben said RIM would use social networking channels to show the capabilities of BlackBerry 10 and let its millions of still-loyal users spread the word.

"The most natural thing to do from a marketing standpoint is to put that experience in the hands of our fans and let them do the marketing job, so to speak," he said.

He said he plans to craft a more unified message for RIM, acknowledging that the company had previously suffered brand fragmentation and a lack of cohesion in how it told its story in different countries.

Boulben is a wireless industry veteran, who was most recently in charge of marketing and sales for United States telecom start-up LightSquared.

He previously worked at Vodafone Group Plc and France Telecom SA's Orange wireless unit.