BlackBerry CEO Mike Lazaridis
Mike Lazaridis resigned as CEO of BlackBerry. Reuters

Smarting under intense competition, there was a major shake-up at the top in BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) on January 23. Thorsten Heins, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of RIM was named the CEO. Heins is a former executive of Siemens who joined RIM in 2007.

The announcement followed the resignations of Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie who were serving as co-CEOs and co-chairmen of RIM. Lazaridis, who founded RIM in 1984, will become vice-chairman while Balsillie will continue to be a board member.

Barbara Stymiest, an independent board member, will take over as chairperson.

The shake-up comes amid growing pressure from investors of the company to change RIM's strategy to fight back in the competitive smartphone market.

BlackBerry, once a leading smartphone manufacturer, has seen a sharp decline in its market share in recent months; Apple and a host of other phones with Google's Android OS are constantly pushing it down.

Blackberry, known for its email-sharing features, has suffered a series of setbacks in the past few months.

In October 2011, the smartphone suffered one of its worst outages. Services came to a halt across Europe, the Middle East, North America and parts of South America due to a core switch failure.

With falling sales, RIM's share prices too have dipped sharply, according to a BBC report. There were also rumours that the company was up for sale.

The company's efforts to compete in the tablet market (which is dominated by Apple's iPad) with its PlayBook tablet have not paid off. Despite slashing the price of its tablet, sales are far from encouraging.

RIM critics say that the company should focus on consumers' demands. RIM is accused of ignoring Apple's iPhone and launching a competitor model quite late. Again, the company was slow to launch a tablet to counter the iPad. PlayBook's launch last year was criticised as it was without RIM's trademark email service, according to a Reuters report.

Heins has spelt out his priorities: to sell RIM's latest model BlackBerry 7 touchscreen devices, upgrade software in PlayBook by February, and work on launching the next-generation BlackBerry 10 phones later in 2012.