05/02/2012 03:02 EDT

BlackBerry Keypads Here To Stay, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins Says


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Many changes are afoot at BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion, but chief executive Thorsten Heins says the company will continue to offer devices with its popular physical keypad.

Heins told media at the BlackBerry World conference in Orlando on Wednesday that, despite rumours to the contrary, its new line of BlackBerrys due for release later this year will include both touchscreens and keypads.

"We won't lose the focus on physical keypads. It would be wrong _ just plain wrong to do this,'' Heins said.

The Waterloo-based company weathered some criticism on Tuesday when Heins unveiled the new BlackBerry 10 operating system and focused on some flashy features available to touchscreen users, but didn't address any future plans for keypad devices. Some reports suggested the company would completely ditch the physical keys that helped build its name and are favoured by many of its users.

"We only showed you one element of what the future of the BlackBerry 10 portfolio might look like,'' Heins said.

The confusion emphasized one of the challenges RIM faces in the gradual unveiling of its new operating system and products that will stretch into the latter part of this year. The company hasn't revealed what its new line of smartphones will look like, but it wanted to give developers the opportunity to witness its new operating system at the conference.

It will be one of the first major challenges for the company, which is presently hunting for a new chief marketing officer.

Heins treaded lightly on criticism of the state of RIM before he took the reins.

"We need to improve our marketing,'' he said.

There were regional differences when it brought out the BlackBerry 7 operating system.

"It was not coherent. It was not really what RIM was about.''

Heins also said that he launched a major examination of RIM's organization earlier this year.

"It became clear that _ here and there _ the company has a little fat on the hips,'' he said of his initial impression as the new CEO.

"We just need to move and evolve to be a lean, mean, nimble hunting machine.''

BlackBerry 10 is seen as an important part of RIM's attempt to compete against the likes of Apple's iPhone and devices using Google's Android operating system.

Research In Motion (TSX:RIM) stock was down 72 cents a share to $12.59 by early afternoon trading at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The stock is down about 11 per cent since the conference began.

Prior to becoming CEO in January, Heins was a senior executive with the company.

He was put in charge of all product engineering functions last July, about the time Research In Motion announced it would cut 2,000 jobs worldwide.

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