After years of struggling to keep up with Apple and Google’s smartphone supremacy, Research in Motion co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis have said they will step down from the troubled phone maker on Monday.

RIM will replace the co-CEOs, who have jointly headed the company for 20 years, with COO Thorsten Heins (pictured). He has been at RIM for four years and previously worked for Siemens AG as CTO. He timidly said in an interview with The Globe and Mail that he will stay on the course set out by Balsillie and Lazaridis, and that the company must focus on improving its core BlackBerry product.

Investors in RIM have been clamoring for a serious change in direction, especially in light of a disastrous 2011. The company’s stock price lost more than three-quarters of its value after various blunders, including a terrible worldwide BlackBerry outage and a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet that looked undercooked compared to Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle Fire and various other Android tablets. RIM also announced that its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 devices wouldn’t appear until the end of this year, and also delayed a well-needed software update on the PlayBook until February.

With a new CEO at the helm, hopefully RIM can begin to right its ship. Heins said he has no intention to sell the company, a rumor we’ve been hearing for months. He also said the company still has the ability to grow and succeed. The first thing on his plate will be to pick up a chief marketing officer to help repair the struggling BlackBerry brand. Another big challenge will be prepping the new BB 10 operating system for release on devices in late 2012.

As for the outed CEOs, Lazaridis will become vice chairman and Balsillie will stay on as a board member without an operational role. Balsillie and Lazaridis own 12 percent of the company’s outstanding shares, making them the second and third largest shareholders of the company. RIM Director Barbara Stymiest will take over as board chairman.

Do you think this move is enough for RIM to succeed in 2012?

Update: RIM has posted a video of new CEO Heins talking about the state of the company. Watch it below:

Front page broken BlackBerry image: Miggslives/Flickr

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