Android and iPhone devices were already destroying RIM’s BlackBerry market share. But the outage that has spread from Europe and Africa to North America and South America may be the final straw for millions of formerly loyal users, who previously relied on their Blackberries as a robust and ultra-reliable way for always-on push email and Web access.
“BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning,” RIM said in a statement. “We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience. We will provide a further update as soon as more information is available.”
So far, RIM has yet to describe the nature of the problem. It also has yet either to deny or confirm that a malicious attack caused the interruption, which is causing doubts about how well it's protecting users’ data.
My France-based service provider SFR didn't send an email, text message, or any other direct communication admitting there was a problem. But the outage, which will hopefully be temporary, will probably turn out to be minor compared to the bigger issue that threatens RIM’s main livelihood: Android and iOS not only feature reliable push e-mail and Internet access alternatives, but they also offer a wealth of apps that RIM just doesn't offer.
According to a report that analyst firm Distimo released in April, the number of available iPhone apps totaled 303,000 while there were 151,000 Android apps-- versus BlackBerry19,000 for BlackBerry at the beginning of the year.
Developers are just not creating apps for the BlackBerry like they are for the iPhone and Android devices. Coincidently, I was visiting luxury carmaker BMW's R&D facility Tuesday in Munich when I learned about the BlackBerry problem. There are plans within three years for BMW cars to allow iPhone and Android apps--not BlackBerry apps--to run on car consoles. And General Motors’ OnStar division said in December its customers can stream addresses from their iPhone or Android devices to their cars’ navigation systems. So far, the application is not yet available for Blackberries.
The automotive sector, of course, is just one area where BlackBerry is being left behind. The outage in my case, and likely for millions of users around the world, is the last straw. I'm not sure what is the most troubling: that the service provider didn't inform me of the outage, or that it occurred in the first place.
After I noticed that I was no longer receiving mobile email, I wrongly assumed that there might be something wrong with the BlackBerry handset. After a series of reboots did not help, I just happened to see a headline in a newspaper about the problem. Why couldn't the ISP inform its subscribers directly? Vodafone in the United Kingdom didn't directly inform its customers, either.
Bruce covers tech trends in the United States and Europe. He can be reached through his Website at www.brucegain.com.