RIM to focus on business customers as sales slide

RIM has announced a fourth quarter loss of $125 million, and says it plans to pull out of the consumer market.

Seeing the writing on the wall, it says it plans to refocus on its first, core market of business customers, and is looking to strike partnership and licensing deals.

Sales for the three months were just $4.2 billion, down 19 percent from the previous quarter. Smartphone shipments dropped to 11.1 million, down 21 percent.

“The business challenges we face over the next several quarters are significant and I am taking the necessary steps to address them,” says president and CEO Thorsten Heins.

“In addition to delivering the BlackBerry 10 platform and refocusing resources on RIM’s key opportunities, such as BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and new integrated service offerings, we will also drive greater operational performance through a variety of initiatives including increased management accountability and process discipline.”

The announcement comes alongside a management shakeup which sees chief technology officer David Yach leaving after 13 years with the company. Jim Rowan, chief operating officer of global operations, is also off, and former co-CEO Jim Balsillie is quitting the board.

RIM’s enjoyed great success in the corporate market, but has struggled to win the same enthusiasm from consumers. According to the latest data from Nielsen, it’s got just 11.6 percent of the smartphone market in the US, compared with 32 percent for the iPhone and 48 percent for Android phones.

To an extent, it’s got its hopes pinned on the planned BlackBerry 10 – long delayed, but now expected by the end of this year.

The announcement has, unsurprisingly, fueled speculation that the company may be looking for a buyer. While there’s no confirmation of this, Heims says he’s undertaking “a comprehensive review of strategic opportunities including partnerships and joint ventures, licensing, and other ways to leverage RIM’s assets and maximize value for our stakeholders.”