The move is seen as the end of an era in the telecommunications industry – under the auspices of previous joint CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, RIM became a market leader and made the Blackberry one of the world's most popular smartphones.
But the rise of Apple's iPhone and the cheaper alternative provided by the Android smartphones led to Blackberry's market share and stock value shrinking rapidly, especially in the US.
RIM shareholders have been calling for a radical change of leadership for several months.
“We have learned from the challenges,” Heins said Sunday from the RIM headquarters in Waterloo, Canada. The 54-year-old began his career at the German technology giant Siemens, before switching to RIM in 2007.
"There comes a time in the growth of every successful company when the founders recognize the need to pass the baton to new leadership," Lazaridis said. "Jim and I went to the board and told them that we thought that time was now."
"I agree this is the right time to pass the baton to new leadership, and I have complete confidence in Thorsten, the management team and the company,” added Balsillie.