RIM loses second Australian MD


news The Australian division of Research in Motion has lost its second managing director in six months, with Ray Gillenwater reportedly to leave the company just three months after he took up the role, following the departure of his predecessor Adele Beachley.

RIM has confirmed Gillenwater’s departure to the Australian, ZDNet and iTNews, with his replacement to be Matthew Ball, RIM Australia’s current marketing director and a former group manager of the Xbox brand at Microsoft Australia. Ball’s LinkedIn profile also confirmed the appointment, with the site listing his role as being RIM’s local managing director since this month.

When Gillenwater was appointed in February, the executive, who had a history with RIM dating back half a decade, said: “There is a fantastic opportunity for BlackBerry in Australia and New Zealand’s thriving smartphone market. I look forward to working with our partners and talented internal teams to focus on our business strategy with an immediate emphasis on preparing for the highly anticipated BlackBerry 10 launch.”

According to an RIM media release, Gillenwater was involved in architecting and implementing RIM’s distribution model for BlackBerry across South East Asia, making the region one of the fastest-growing and best-performing in the industry. RIM Asia-Pacific Senior Vice President Urpo Karjalainen, who had been managing local operations in the interim period, said: “Ray has a proven track record, having played an active role in the development and growth of some of RIM’s strongest markets in South East Asia. His leadership will be instrumental in driving the next stage of our business growth in Australia and New Zealand.”

Gillenwater’s appointment came after his predecessor, Adele Beachley, left the company in February. Beachley had been one of RIM’s first employees in the Asia-Pacific region. Beachley had been with RIM for a decade, after joining the company in 2002, at a time shortly after the company’s flagship BlackBerry handset had been first introduced into the market, and as the company was attempting to push the devices and their associated back-office infrastructure into the Australian and wider Asia-Pacific market. Prior to that point, Beachley had worked in a number of other roles in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

In the mid-years of the past decade, RIM had achieved a strong position in Australia’s mobile phone market and corporate sphere, with its devices used by virtually every major corporation. However, over the past several years, since the introduction of the iPhone and similar Android handsets, RIM has seen a speedy decline in customer interest in its devices.

The company continues to have a strong fanbase in Australia, which closely examines the launch of any new BlackBerry handsets locally, but RIM’s launch of its PlayBook tablet locally last year appeared to be virtually ignored by Australian customers, who have instead preferred Apple’s iPad. The tablet was speedily discounted internationally, and has been bundled for free in Australia with BlackBerry handsets.

Everyone in the smartphone industry knows that RIM is heavily suffering at a corporate level at the moment, but somewhat in denial about the issue. What we’re seeing in Australia at the moment appears, to a surface observer, to be the local implications of that fact. If there are other, innocuous reasons for its series of executive changes in Australia, RIM should explain them.

Image credit: Research in Motion