Research In Motion has decided that a few free apps will ease customer pain over widespread BlackBerry outages last week.
RIM claimed in an Oct. 17 statement that the apps would be available "over the coming weeks" on BlackBerry App World. The 12 apps listed so far include games such as Sims 3 and N.O.V.A., along with Photo Editor Ultimate, iSpeech Translator Pro and Shazam Encore. The company promises more to come; in addition, enterprise customers will apparently receive a month of free technical support, and "current customers" will be offered "a complimentary one-month extension of their existing Technical Support contract."
For much of the previous week, RIM wrestled to contain a global outage of BlackBerry service. The situation seemed under control by Oct. 13, when RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis told media and analysts on a conference call that "immediate and aggressive steps" were being taken "to minimize the risk of this happening again." Both Lazaridis and co-CEO Jim Balsillie insisted that RIM would work to regain customers' trust following the incident.
The outages smacked RIM at a turbulent moment, with the company undergoing what its executives refer to as a "transition period." In the face of declining revenues, RIM is betting big on an upcoming generation of QNX-based "superphones" that will apparently offer hardware and software parity with the company's higher-end competitors. Until those devices hit store shelves, RIM hopes that a new line of BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 7 OS will help it retain market share, even as Google Android and Apple's iOS poise an increasing challenge to RIM's traditional user base.
During the early part of the BlackBerry outage, analysts criticized RIM's response.
"The extent of the outage has been and continues to be shocking," Stephen Mann, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in an Oct. 12 posting on his corporate blog. Moreover, he added, RIM's communications with customers "have been lacking and one could argue that their tone has been terse-a far cry from customer-focused."
Another argued that RIM's declining market share among business users had changed the tone of customer response to the outage.
"What's interested to me is that there wasn't a bigger outcry from IT managers," Phillip Redman, an analyst with Gartner, wrote in an Oct. 13 posting on his corporate blog. "Many companies today have as many iPhones as they do BlackBerry devices. Fewer of their employees, and their businesses, were impacted by the outage."
While he didn't believe that the outage "will lead to a faster move off of BlackBerry onto other platforms, it doesn't build a stronger case to stay," and that enterprises supporting "a diverse environment will be impacted less if one goes down."
But it's ultimately up to the customers whether the outage-and RIM's make-good in the form of free apps and customer support-is enough to persuade them to stick with their BlackBerrys.