Blackberry Blackout Backlash
Students use blackberries
A massive BlackBerry outage hit millions of users spanning five continents earlier this month, affecting BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), email, and web services for three days. In response, the device’s maker, Research in Motion (RIM), offered a $100 credit for select apps on its online store.The giveaway, however, is unlikely to soothe angry customers. BlackBerry used to pride itself on protecting enterprise data, and thus attracted security-conscious banks, IT managers, and, of course, the President. But the large-scale service disruption revealed the cost of “being protected”: unlike iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system (OS), or Android, the Google-produced equivalent, the Blackberry OS, routs all of its messages through its own data center, creating a single point of potential technical failure. In this recent disruption, the outage lasted more than 72 hours and RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis admitted that getting the system back up “took much longer than they had expected”.This is not the first time that RIM customers have suffered from data outages; similar problems have occurred four times in the past five years. Analysts say that RIM’s rivals, namely iPhone and Google, have caught up with it in terms of data protection, thanks to the release of iOS 5 and Android’s third-party security software.
Another edge RIM claims to have over its competitors is the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, an instant-messaging application that allows users to “text” other BlackBerry users for free by sharing unique PINs. Apple’s introduction of iMessage, however, has undermined RIM’s dominance in this particular arena. While Blackberry has two separate applications for texting and BBM, iMessage seamlessly integrates the two, sending messages via SMS when a wireless or 3G network is not available, or when the recipient is not using an iPhone. This user-friendly feature saves a lot of trouble, since BlackBerry users have to check the BBM contact list and then choose which application to open before sending a message.
Through the technological advancements of the iPhone over the past months, it is no wonder that sales of the BlackBerry are in worldwide decline. BlackBerry handset shipments in the fiscal second quarter were down 11% compared to the same quarter in 2010, and down 18% sequentially. RIM’s net income also plunged by 60%.
The recent outage is just the latest in a string of problems RIM has faced and continues to experience. An increasing number of companies that used to be loyal BlackBerry customers no longer see the need to be locked into RIM’s secure proprietary email service, and have begun to question the reliability of their smart phones. RIM has also suffered from product delays and poor reviews. Yet the question remains: Can BlackBerry be saved?
“It depends on how quick RIM can move from the corporate government image into the app-world image,” says James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University.
RIM’s long-term survival, according to one of the company’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie, hinges on the success of a “super phone” on QNX, a new operating system scheduled to be released next year. Balsillie said the news software would “leap-frog the mobile industry and help position RIM for the next decade”. Let’s just hope that there won’t be another launch delay.
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