Ailing BlackBerry Maker Faces Shareholder Scrutiny

Executives from the BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) were grilled Tuesday by investors over the company's recent dismal performance. RIM has announced massive layoffs and its shares are trading at a nine year low. With the launch of the BlackBerry 10 delayed until next year, RIM's survival is considered to be at stake.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Executives of the company that makes BlackBerries faced their shareholders today in Ottawa, Canada, and it was not a happy meeting. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The meeting was held in Waterloo, Ontario, not in Ottawa.]

Many investors are upset with the way Research in Motion has been run. The value of RIM stock has plummeted 80 percent with growing competition from iPhones and Droids. And now the company's new management team is trying to convince investors it can turn things around.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: At RIM's annual meeting in Ontario, the air was thick with skepticism about where the company is going. Investor Philip Rayson said it was time for board members to resign.

PHILIP RAYSON: I'm extremely irritated. Why did they let it get out of hand so badly and so much?

ZARROLI: Shareholders such as Rayson blame the company for complacency. Once a leader in the SmartPhone field, RIM has seen its market share erode because of competition, especially from iPhones. RIM has responded by replacing most of its senior managers. It's also invested heavily in a new generation of smartphone to be called BlackBerry 10. It's supposed to provide the kind of touchscreen technology that users like in iPhones and Androids.

But analyst Katarina Milanazi(ph) of the Gartner Group says there are still a lot of questions about the new product and whether it can compete with Apple.

KATARINA MILANAZI: The thing that they're still at the plotting phase of how we're going to tackle this going forward and, obviously, BlackBerry 10 is the big weapon - that's what they're going to use for a comeback.

ZARROLI: But the rollout of the new product has been delayed until the second quarter of next year and Milanazi says that has hurt the company.[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The BlackBerry 10 will be launched in the first quarter of 2013.]

At the same time, RIM is sharply cutting costs. It's laying off nearly a third of its workforce and closing manufacturing sites.

Chief Executive Thorsten Heins has been at RIM since January.

THORSTEN HEINS: We want to move forward with a lean and nimble organization that can act quickly, is decisive and is aligned around our growth opportunities and our customers.

ZARROLI: One shareholder noted approvingly today that no expensive refreshments were served at the meeting. Company officials also noted that they planned a big shakeup of the board and had hired a company to help carry it out. But with the smartphone market growing fast, RIM has limited time to turn things around and, even if the company survives, it's not clear whether it will ever again be the kind of dominant player in the field that it once was.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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Correction July 12, 2012

The introduction to this story incorrectly places the RIM Annual General Meeting in Ottawa. The meeting was in Waterloo, Ontario. We also say that the BlackBerry 10's release will be delayed until the second quarter of 2013. It will be launched in the first quarter.

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