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RIM: OK, we hear you

Well, let it not be said that things never change, even in the most conservative companies.

Over the last few weeks there's been a growing sense of crisis around Research in Motion, the Canadian tech company best known (only really known) for BlackBerry phones. They've been struggling to maintain their market share ever since the iPhone made its debut in 2007, but things have got worse in the last few months, with the company recently announcing sweeping redundancies. The Playbook tablet, which launched in the Spring, was supposed to be the company's big new beginning. But it launch was marred by lukewarm reviews and a bizarre confrontation between Make Lazaridis, one of the company's two CEOs, and the BBC's tech reporter Rory Cellan-Jones.

Then, just last week, an open letter was published to the two CEOs, Lazaridis and Jim Salsillie, from a senior RIM employee criticising many aspects of the company's strategy and suggesting a new CEO was needed. The company's bland response suggested they had no intention of changing anything.

But the managers of public companies aren't really in charge of them, shareholders are. And it seems RIM's shareholders saw the open letter as the last straw. One major investor, Northwest & Ethical investments, reportedly demanded a change to the CEO setup and a deal has been struck for a 'committee of independent directors' to look at the system and assess whether a new structure of upper management would serve the company better. (In practice, a new structure would also mean new people in the CEO role or roles.)

This isn't a total revolution - the committee will 'investigate' for six months, which gives Lazaridis and Balsillie plenty of time to plan a way of clinging on - or negotiate attractive exit packages. We're going to guess that this won't put an end to the atmosphere of discontent that's swirling around BlackBerry HQ these days.

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