It was a communications blackout for millions of BlackBerry users Wednesday, as a three-day global service outage hit North America and caused a wave of complaints from disconnected New Yorkers and a black eye for the struggling telecom company.
Research in Motion (RIM), its Canada-based developer, promised all emails would be delivered as the backlog clears, but no deadline was given for when the service would be back to normal.
The ability to receive messages or go online was more the problem than the ability for users to make phone calls. The company did not fully explain what caused its network to fail, though it was investigating why a backup system didn’t keep the network afloat.
“Our priority is to get the service up and running because that is what is going to make our customers happy,” David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer for software, said in an online Q&A.
But users — many who are working professionals — were impatient.
“It’s one of those things — you don’t realize how important it is to breathe, until you can’t do it,” one banker on Wall Street, where the BlackBerry remains a staple, told Reuters.
Yessenia Chimelis, 22, a legal assistant in Manhattan, said her firm was “one of the many victims” of the outage. She said an attorney at a hearing had trouble reaching a legal assistant and almost didn’t get court documents delivered on time.
Jill Mackie, a Toronto consultant who has a client in New York, said the service outage put a “hitch” into her daily routine and has made connecting “frustrating on the work front.”
While RIM has not said how many users have been impacted, there is an estimated 70 million BlackBerry users worldwide.
Telecom analysts said the outage was bad timing for RIM, which has seen its U.S. market share erode against smartphone powerhouses, such as the iPhone and Droid, and its stock prices slashed in half since the beginning of the year.
“This is not going to help their customer loyalty one bit,” said Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for BlackBerry, which has plans to introduce new products next year, said analyst John Jackson, of CSS Insight.
“They have a window of opportunity to reset themselves and come back into the market with something that is beyond credible,” he said.
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Research in Motion (RIM) stock price
Down 87 cents from Tuesday