Second RIM staffer defects to Samsung; Apple weighs

TORONTO Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:35pm EDT

A woman holds the a RIM PlayBook in Toronto, April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A woman holds the a RIM PlayBook in Toronto, April 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics has poached a second employee from Research In Motion in a month, setting back the BlackBerry maker as it struggles to regain its stride.

The news of the defection broke as Apple, one of RIM's main rivals, unveiled blockbuster quarterly results, and shares of the Canadian technology company fell to their lowest in about five years before paring those losses in afternoon trade.

Ryan Bidan, senior product manager for RIM's PlayBook tablet computer, left for a job as director of product marketing for Samsung Telecommunications America, according to his profile on professional networking site LinkedIn.

RIM acknowledged that Bidan was leaving but declined to comment further on Wednesday.

Bidan was a familiar face at PlayBook events for developers, serving as a frontline evangelist for a device that faces stiff competition from Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab, which runs on Google's Android software.

"RIM is going through a transition and restructuring not only on the operational side but it seems on the marketing side as well," said Youssef Zohny, a fund manager at Van Arbor Asset Management, which holds C$2.5 million worth of RIM stock.

Bidan is moving to Dallas for Samsung, one of the companies eating away at RIM's smartphone market share. His departure comes barely a month after Brian Wallace, who headed RIM's digital marketing efforts, quit to take a job at Samsung.

RIM has slashed its earnings outlook for this year, blaming delays in getting new devices out to market amid an "arms race" in North America.

Asked whether Bidan and others had jumped ship or were pushed, Zohny said: "It's probably a little bit of both. They're definitely in a tough spot with respect to competition versus Android and Apple."

Highlighting the challenges for RIM, Apple said on Tuesday it had sold more than 20 million iPhones and more than 9 million iPads in its most recent quarter, with strong growth in international markets where RIM has expanded in recent years.

Apple "appeared to make initial in-roads in some of BlackBerry's key international markets like Latin America and Middle East," RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky wrote in a note to clients after Apple's results.

RIM shares hit a fresh intra-day low of $25.60 on the Nasdaq in morning trade, a level last reached in August 2006. They were trading down 0.3 percent at $26.68 by mid-afternoon, having lost more than half their value this year.

The stock was down 0.7 percent at C$25.27 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

RIM's PlayBook launched in April to reviews complaining it was not ready. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said it has shipped more than 500,000 units of the tablet, the first RIM device to run on a QNX-based operating system, in its first six weeks on sale. It shipped 13.2 million BlackBerrys in the quarter.

More defections are possible in coming months after RIM said it would cut an unspecified number of jobs as it seeks to regain momentum in a smartphone race it once dominated.

RIM has faced a storm of criticism about its inability to develop and promote products competitive with Apple's iPhone and iPad, as well as the slew of devices running Google's Android software.

RIM's chief marketing officer, Keith Pardy, also left the company earlier this year and co-CEO Jim Balsillie has assumed responsibility for overall marketing. RIM's chief operations officer, Don Morrison, took a medical leave of absence in June but is expected to return later in the year.

(Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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blackberry for dinosaurs

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