At the annual shareholders meeting for Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) today, CEO Thorsten Heins responded to upset shareholders by declaring that he was focused on creating a “lean, mean hunting machine.”
Hollow words for a company that won’t have a new product until early next year.
It’s not really Heins’ fault, though. Admittedly, he was dealt a bad hand when he came onboard the maker of the BlackBerry.
And Heins’ background is operations — so naturally, when it comes to his comeback plan, the clear parts are about cost-cutting. His goal is to slash the overhead by $1 billion in fiscal 2012, which will involve 5,000 layoffs. Heins also plans to sell one of the company’s corporate jets.
Of course, none of this addresses the core problem at Research In Motion: customer defections. And it’s a big, big problem. So big, in fact, that Bloomberg is reporting that various companies already are looking at contingency plans for if RIMM evaporates or is broken up.
Then there’s the issue of developers. Namely, why would any of them want to create apps for a burning platform? RIMM is planning to offer $10,000 fees for developers, so long as the average revenues are $1,000 per app. But this is chump change for uber-coders, who could do much better focusing on proven platforms like Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS or Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android.
For Heins, perhaps the best option would be to get serious about wringing value from RIMM’s existing assets. The patent portfolio could fetch a nice windfall. Just look at AOL (NYSE:AOL), which snagged $1 billion for its intellectual property. And, of course, Google paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, with a big part of the value in that deal coming from patents.
With all of that in mind, it goes without saying that investors should proceed with caution. RIMM has $2 billion in cash and no debt, but there’s still plenty of risk to go around. The company might continue to try to make a turnaround and continue to burn cash. Or the patent portfolio might wind up fetching a disappointing stock.
The bottom line: Don’t mess with RIMM. Any hope you could gleam right now is just that — hope.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He is also the author of the upcoming book How to Create the Next Facebook: Seeing Your Startup Through, from Idea to IPO. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli or reach him via email. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.