BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion today announced specifics about their cost-cutting plans first mentioned in their last quarterly result. 2000 jobs are on the chopping block, on top of the 200 or so that have already been let go. On top of that, RIM’s chief operating officer Don Morrison has announced his retirement. Morrison had been on medical leave since earlier this year, and the decision to not come back follows up on other high-level departures from marketing and product management. The layoffs will reduce RIM’s size to 17,000 employees, and they expect more “streamlining” to happen at a later date.
Although cutting staff in the right places may actually reduce bureaucracy and speed up workflow, one might argue that with co-CEOs Jim Basillie and Mike Lazaridis at the helm, BlackBerry is still missing the fresh strategic direction that they sorely need to compete. RIM’s financial balance sheet is still looking fine, despite the lack of future prospects, so cutting staff isn’t so much about saving money. It’s easy to brush off RIM’s use of the term “streamlining” as a euphamism for throwing around pink slips left and right, but if the many open letters issued by past and present employees are any indication, RIM could use fewer cooks in their various kitchens. RIM is still actively investing in their product development through new acquisitions, too; if money were really that tight, I don’t think we’d see RIM picking up new companies at the rate they have been.
Right now, RIM has a lot of products to get out the door. The Bold 9900/30, Torch 9810 and Torch 9850/60 are all expected this summer, followed by the Curve 9350/60. Don’t forget the LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+ versions of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. Although RIM’s OS 7 devices will be introducing stuff like augmented reality apps, near-field communications, and faster processors, they will at best match mid-ranged smartphone competition, and not likely put a dent into the giant 4-inch dual-core handsets we’re seeing from other manufacturers.
Whether or not these layoffs actually streamline anything, we won’t know until early next year, when the first QNX-powered dual-core BlackBerry smartphones are expected to land. RIM will provide an update on their staff situation during their Q2 results in September.
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