Feature

The great BlackBerry outage

Blackberry's four-day outage has alienated even its most devoted customers. 

BlackBerry, you’re dead to me, said Jim Kerstetter in CNET.com. A nearly four-day outage affecting tens of millions of customers on five continents was the last straw. “I’ve stuck up for you for years,” enduring taunts from my iPhone-carrying wife and giggles from co-workers who called me a “fuddy-duddy.” Sure, you’re a “not terribly stylish brick,” but the important thing was that you worked. Until last week. So now I’m looking for a new phone, and not in the BlackBerry section.

BlackBerry customers everywhere are bound to do the same, said Iain Mackenzie in BBCNews​.com. Research in Motion’s smartphone always stood first and foremost for reliability. It was like Volvo: “chunky, a little uncool, but you could drop a piano on one and it would keep on trucking.” That reputation has now been tarnished at the worst possible moment, as Apple and Android stand ready to embrace fed-up former CrackBerry addicts. RIM’s biggest weakness hasn’t been a failure to innovate but a chronically “limp response to crisis situations.” Its deafening silence last week, followed by confused explanations and a belated apology from the CEO, simply doesn’t inspire confidence. The company is “alienating lots of its old friends.”

There’s no better example of RIM’s poor communication than its $100-in-free-apps peace offering for this debacle, said Jon Brodkin in ArsTechnica.com. Sorry, but “free copies of Bejeweled and The Sims 3 won’t be enough” to make up for the worst crisis in RIM’s 12-year history, especially as the outage seems so “symbolic of the company’s slow downfall.” For years, RIM was the preferred provider for big business because it was stable and safe. But now the iPhone, Android, and other smartphone platforms are “good enough for most business scenarios.” That competition and RIM’s mistakes had “put the company’s future in jeopardy even before last week’s outage.”

RIM’s smartphones no longer “seem very smart,” said Jason Pontin in the Financial Times. Consumers want phones that are more than just messaging machines. They want to read news, listen to music, and watch videos, and doing those things on a BlackBerry “is unpleasant.” The business-oriented BlackBerry was “supremely adapted” to the early smartphone market, but phones now need to “appeal first to consumers.” That’s the Darwinian business of technology. I suppose the BlackBerry could still adapt. “But I doubt it.”

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