Balsillie tried to make changes at RIM but got shafted instead

Analysts who work in the “does he know something we don’t” departments of their companies have wondered why former Research In Motion co-chief executive Jim Balsillie suddenly quit.

Insiders at RIM have been leaking the news to Reuters that Balsillie was knifed in a boardroom battle after he tried to re-invent the BlackBerry smartphone maker with a radical shift in strategy.

Apparently Balsillie wanted to allow major wireless companies in North America and Europe to provide service for non-BlackBerry devices routed through RIM’s proprietary network.

This would be a major change with the BlackBerry-only strategy which RIM had used in the past.

It involved letting the carriers use the RIM network to offer inexpensive data plans, limited to social media and instant messaging, to entice low-tier customers to upgrade from no-frills phones to smartphones.

All good stuff and Balsillie might have saved RIM from a lot of problems. Unfortunately Balsillie could not get the rest of the company to agree with him. When he started talking to the carriers some “very senior people” at RIM threw their toys out of the pram.

Balsillie apparently thought stuff this for a game of soldiers and cleaned out his desk. This left his former partner at the helm, Mike Lazaridis. Lazaridis prompty moved into the background and allowed the the appointment of a new CEO who, so far, has not mentioned any similar plans.

Lazaridis’s plan would have included RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger application which is still much loved. It would have relied on RIM’s private network.

It would have meant that carriers could have saved cash because they did not have to shunt traffic over their networks.

Balsillie had made all the contacts with the telcos that he could eat. But before that could happen, RIM’s new CEO Thorsten Heins, backed by Lazaridis and the board, rejected Balsillie’s initiative.

Heins has a status quo approach which weighted all RIMs hopes on the next-generation BlackBerry 10 phones due later in the year. This is apparently the view of Lazaridis even if this approach has led RIM to the heights of success it has been experiencing lately.