The rut only gets deeper for Research In Motion. On top of doubt from investors and shareholders, tumbling market share and stock prices and the limited success of the BlackBerry 7 effort, RIM has been nailed in the gut with one of their worst BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) outages to date.
BIS is RIM's proprietary Internet service for BlackBerry devices that delivers push email, supports BlackBerry Messenger and other Internet services. On Monday, BlackBerry users in parts of Europe, Africa, South America and the Middle East started reporting BIS outages. The outage began spreading across parts of North America this morning.
This is hardly the first BIS outage, though. Coming from CNN, tech analyst Jeff Kagan spoke on the issue, claiming, "I have been an analyst for 25 years and have watched RIM wrestle with this same outage problem time after time. Every few years we get pinched by yet another major problem." Two years ago BlackBerry users were hit with outage after outage. I can attest to countless outages during my years as a BlackBerry user.
The difference with this particular outage, however, is that instead of being isolated to a select few countries or a single continent, it has affected every continent except for Antarctica. BlackBerry users around the world have been left with delayed messages while other users have been left "completely in the dark" without any (working) Internet service at all. RIM has stayed silent on when services will be restored, but chimed in on the matter, stating:
"messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested."
When I bought my first BlackBerry in 2006, BIS was the service that set them apart. Instead of polling for inbox changes on intervals of 15 or 30 minutes, my BlackBerry would deliver my emails instantly, by RIM's "push" method. All data that comes to or leaves your BlackBerry is sent through RIM's servers where it is encrypted and secured.
This feature that once set them apart could now the sole element that could finally put RIM under.
Unlike a carrier data outage, which affects all users of all types of smartphones, a BIS outage obviously only affects BlackBerry users. These BlackBerry users have essentially been left with feature phones while iPhone, Android and Windows Phone users have been able to continue surfing the Web, receiving emails and using all other data services uninterrupted.
RIM's data security and enterprise services (BES) have been the features that made BlackBerry the go-to handsets for business customers. But RIM's server reliability and aging smartphone technology has put a dent in its enterprise stake over recent years. At Apple's iPhone keynote last week, Tim Cook revealed that 94 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are currently testing the iPhone.
In a time where carrying a BlackBerry is considered a challenge, an outage is the last thing RIM needs to deal with. John Sutter of CNN says, "BlackBerry users, many of whom use the devices primarily for business purposes, were angered by the outage." A few-hour outage is one thing, but a multiple-day outage can be fatal to business subscribers.
An outage like this a few years ago would come and go with a little backlash. But the reach and timing of this particular outage show a major weakness of RIM's during a time of recovery, and it may have both business and personal users looking to other platforms like iOS and Android.
Are you a BlackBerry user? Have you been affected by the outage? And has it made you consider switching to a different smartphone in the future? Let us know in the comments section below.