Research in Motion (RIM) is slowly restoring internet and messaging services to its BlackBerry customers worldwide, after a three-day network failure that spread from Europe to Asia, Africa, Latin America, and finally the U.S. — a blackout the Canadian company blamed on a failed server in Europe. RIM's stock has already dropped 60 percent this year, as Apple's iPhone and Google's Android poach BlackBerry users. And with all the smartphone buzz focused on the new iPhone 4S, "the timing of these outages is simply brutal" for RIM, says Larry Dignan in CBS News. How much will this episode damage the brand?
This could sink RIM: The big BlackBerry blackout has plenty of angry customers threatening to finally "ditch their 'CrackBerries,'" says Marguerite Reardon in CNET News. But the existential threat to RIM isn't from individuals — lots of its core business customers already carry a personal iPhone or Android handset and their work-issued BlackBerry — it's from companies. If this makes corporations lose faith in the BlackBerry's key selling points, security and reliability, it's hard to see how RIM can survive.
"Will frustrated customers ditch BlackBerry?"
The outage is mostly a media "kerfuffle": RIM's admittedly damaging blackout was an apocalyptic disaster — in "the hysterical press," says David Berman in Toronto's The Globe and Mail. But for the people with actual skin in the game, investors, the reaction has been "relatively tame." RIM saw a small dip in share price, while Apple shares barely rose, even with all those "hopes that BlackBerry users will defect in droves" to its iPhone.
"Investors calm after RIM setback"
BlackBerry is fading, but don't gloat: The biggest proof of "RIM's continuing decline" is the relative lack of "deafening shrieks from the CrackBerry-addicted," says Stephen Stromberg in The Washington Post. These days a massive service failure "just seems in character for these clunky legacy devices." But even if you love your iPhone or Droid, don't celebrate BlackBerry's fall. Competition breeds innovation, so if RIM can "shake the so-five-years-ago stigma" and bounce back, we all win.