This morning, RIM posted a video of their co-CEO and founder, Mike Lazaridis, talking about the BlackBerry service interruptions that have been ongoing since Monday around the world. Lazaridis reported that service levels are approaching normal, but they still can’t say for sure how long it will be before everything is restored. He sounded sincere about the apology, at least:
“Since launching BlackBerry in 1999, it’s been my goal to provide reliable, real-time communications around the world. We did not deliver on that goal this week – not even close. I apologize for the service outages this week. We let many of you down, but let me assure you that we’re working around the clock to fix this. You expect better from us, and I expect better from us.”
BlackBerry data for the browser, e-mail, and instant messaging clients (including BBM) get fed through RIM servers for compression and security. That system is unique to BlackBerry, which on the one hand makes RIM smartphones special, but on the other lends them to occasional service outages like this. The original cause of this particular interruption was a failed back-up system in Europe. Even though the server issues are now fixed, a massive backlog of unsent messages is resulting in significant delays. It’s hard to nail down just how many people are affected, but it isn’t every single device; someone who owns two BlackBerry phones might have one working and the other not. Based on the amount of noise online though, it’s a significant number of BlackBerry owners.
Big companies all over the world rely on BlackBerry, so when service goes down, it’s not just people moaning that they can’t retweet funny cat videos for a few days – it means people can’t do their jobs. Some have attacked RIM for not communicating enough through the ordeal, but I’ve been impressed so far. They’ve had two conference calls, this video, and ongoing status updates through Facebook, Twitter and an official update page. There aren’t a lot of smartphone manufacturers that are as directly tied to the end-user service as RIM, but of those that do, I’d be hard-pressed to remember one apologizing as profusely as here. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the service interruption in the first place, and puts a big dent in BlackBerry’s reputation when it’s already hurting.
In the case of that big Sidekick outage a few years ago, T-Mobile offered compensation to customers. What could RIM give every affected BlackBerry customer to keep them from defecting in frustration? BBM Music for a year? Yeah, like that would make anybody happy. BlackBerry owners, have you been hit by the outage? Are you on the verge of switching to Android or iPhone as a result? Is there anything RIM could offer to keep you around?