Research In Motion has finally found a new chief marketing officer.
Frank Boulben, who has held senior marketing and sales roles at a number of wireless carriers including Vodafone and Orange, was named RIM’s CMO on Tuesday.
The Waterloo, Ont. company also said Kristian Tear, former executive vice-president of Sony Mobile, has become chief operating officer.
Boulben has been executive VP of strategy, marketing and sales at LightSquared, which hoped to build a 4G wireless broadband network in the U.S. that would sell wholesale access to other operators. However the FCC ruled the $4 billion in spectrum it bought interfers with the GPS network, essentially killing the company.
“RIM is a pioneer in the mobile world and the BlackBerry brand is a global icon," Boulben said in a statement. "We all know how fast the mobile arena evolves and with the BlackBerry 10 platform, I believe RIM will once again change the way individuals and enterprises engage with each other and the world around them. I could not resist the opportunity to be part of that transformation."
He joins RIM at a time when the company is facing a juggernaut in Apple Inc.’s iPhone, falling global market share and tepid response in many markets to its new BlackBerry 7 operating system. Most importantly, there is a mountain of expectations that the company’s future relies on an exciting launch of its upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system and handsets.
“They desperately need a single message going to market for their re-launch,” said Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe.
What he found significant is Boulben’s carrier background. “This is not a devices person, this is a services person. And maybe that’s a message: Yup, device is important, but really its going to be about services, and more importantly all about our [carrier] customers’ services. And I think that’s probably a good decision.”
Boulben might not be the right person to create an exciting message, Howe conceded – if that’s what RIM needs when BB 10 launches later this year. After all, Apple is renowned for creating memorable advertising. On the other hand, Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy II smartphones are doing well, and who remembers a Samsung ad?
“They don’t need an exciting message,” Howe said of RIM, “they need a single message … one that’s easy to remember and the immediate reaction of people is ‘You’re with us or against us.’”
In announcing their appointment RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that "Kristian and Frank bring extensive knowledge of the rapidly changing wireless global market and will help RIM as we sharpen our focus on delivering long-term value to our stakeholders. Most importantly, both Kristian and Frank possess a keen understanding of the emerging trends in mobile communications and computing."
Tear previously held a variety of operational leadership positions with LM Ericsson in Europe, Asia and Latin America. At RIM, he will oversee all operational functions for handhelds and services, including research and development, products, global sales, manufacturing and supply chain.
RIM’s stock [TSX: RIM
] briefly blipped up when the Toronto Stock Exchange opened, then settled back.
(Howard Solomon is assistant editor of ComputerWorld Canada)