BlackBerry blacking out?

Photo from Creative Commons.

Research in Motion, known as RIM, is the developer of the widely used BlackBerry. They took a major hit this month as texting and Internet access went down for some of the users for up to three days. This three-day outage caused outrage among the BlackBerry community and couldn’t have happened at a worse time for RIM.

The outage happened just days before the launch of the iPhone 4S. Many BlackBerry users took to Twitter threatening to go over to the new iPhone as it received glowing reviews. Along with the new iPhone, a number of new Android-based phones are slated to hit the market in the next few weeks, all of which are putting pressure on the struggling BlackBerry.

This was not the first major outage for RIM, but it’s the largest to date for the company. The outage spanned several continents, starting in Europe and then rapidly spreading to parts of Africa, Asia and India. By the second and third day, the outage spread through North and South America.

Initially, RIM claimed that the outage was due to a backlog of data mostly consisting of emails which caused the system to bottleneck and was the result of what was initially a slow to nonexistent service on text messages an email. As the issues with the service were being instigated and resolved, RIM kept in contact with its users through Twitter. The CEO even posted a video on YouTube apologizing to their users saying he knew they expected more out of RIM and they would work to live up to those expectations after this incident.

A couple of days after the issue had finally been resolved, RIM finally announced the issue behind the outage was a failed core switch at their major data center in Europe. The system was set up with a backup switch, but it failed to trigger as the primary switch slowly died causing the initial slow data transfers and then the service blackout.

While many of the users on Twitter expressed their outrage by threatening to switch services, other users thought that the outage happened at just a little too convenient a time for RIM’s competitors. Some BlackBerry users accused the outage on sabotage, stating that a simple outage of one data center in Europe should spread on such a wide scale. Others claim that RIM is lying to users about the real cause with no accusations of outside sabotage.

RIM may be in serious trouble with this outage. While some customers are still staying loyal to the company, many seem to be using it as an excuse to jump ship and find another phone to meet their needs. BlackBerry vendors may be hesitant to renew their contracts with RIM until they are certain the support remains for the phones. RIM may have some difficult times ahead of them, but it could be a moment of opportunity allowing them to revamp who they are as a company and renew interest in their phones.