RIM’s outages were bad, but I think the immediate damage is limited

It’s a total unmitigated arse when your technology doesn’t work as expected.

I’ve got an email account at one of the companies I consult with regularly. They’re a top FTSE 100 firm and they were seriously challenged by this week’s BlackBerry outage. One of the implications of the continued outage was that the company’s help desk team obviously sent out frequent updates to everyone in the company.

So everyone was told of the BlackBerry outage. Everybody. Everyone was reminded, constantly, just how reliant their business was on RIM technology.

Before today, I think it’s fair to say that most IT teams didn’t fully appreciate how much their businesses actually rely on the ‘BlackBerry Cloud’. It’s easy to consider the BlackBerry just a client device useful for checking mail, but, something you can certainly do without if needs be, especially since the IT team is also responsible for you laptop/desktop and the mail servers. This Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday, many executives got a rude awakening.

Those who’d already deployed iPhone or Android or Windows Phone were perfectly fine. Exchange via ActiveSync was obviously unaffected. The amount of crowing and ribbing I witnessed between those with iPhones and those with ‘dead’ BlackBerries was rather fun to watch.

My biggest disappointment with this week’s outage is the amount of phenomenally destructive free advertising that’s been dedicated to validating the media’s assertion that RIM is dead, dying or moving toward that state. This viewpoint has been building and building over the past year — despite the company’s devices retaining the #1 or #2 positions in dozens upon dozens of countries.

The way the company’s top management has handled the problem has been rather frustrating.

This wasn’t a mere technical hiccup. In fact, this week’s critical issue was next to nothing to do with server nodes or switches. No. It demonstrated that RIM’s top, top management has zero clue about the company’s market perception. The competitors were just waiting for this to happen. The timing, the scale, the length of the interruption was pitch perfect.

Staying broadly silent across 24 hours and then 48 hours was not the answer. Oh no. Not when EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS was sending emails to ALL OF THEIR STAFF telling them (I paraphrase), “BlackBerry services are still down and RIM aren’t saying anything, so we’ve nothing to tell you”

Not only did this make Europe’s IT help desk teams look rather impotent, it will also have served as a warm reminder for the top IT brass to shake off that, ‘bring your own device’ or ‘convert everyone to iPhone’ proposals.

I arrived into my hotel room last night in New York to find the team at CNN mocking BlackBerry in a live segment that must have lasted at least 5 minutes. Mocking the company! I do mean, mocking. They even included a segment of one of their producers going nuts about being unable to ‘make the news’ (or words to that effect) because of the outage.

I think I’m right in saying that if RIM experiences one more continued multi-business-day outage, they will be toast.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. In fact the light is arriving around about now. Most of us will forget the outages very, very quickly. The reality is that millions of folk really like their BlackBerry experience and provided service is working, they’ll remain happy.

Especially since many will have signed multi-year contracts with their operators 😉

I’m sure a few will be going spare about the days of productivity they lost. Some uber frustrated individuals will have already swapped to another platform. The broad, broad majority though? They’ll carry on as normal.

Outages do happen. It’s significantly inconvenient. But it’s working now.

So I don’t think many consumers will be hacking their BlackBerries to pieces over the outage. I also think that provided RIM can continue to innovate with its handsets and operating systems, the future looks good.

I still don’t think there’s anything better than a BlackBerry for messaging.

Next week it’s DevCon Americas, the biggest BlackBerry event on the West Coast for quite a while. I’m hopeful that the company will reveal some exciting updates — or perhaps give some glimpses into what’s coming next. I’m also interested to see how the company addresses this week’s outage to the BlackBerry faithful.

So what do you think? What’s your view?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

One reply on “RIM’s outages were bad, but I think the immediate damage is limited”

It’s not so simple for big enterprises to swap away from RIM though, Rory — they’re going to have be seriously committed to make that change, surely?

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