BlackBerry Outage, Failed Apple iOS Upgrade Leaves Writer Out in the Cold

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-10-12

BlackBerry Outage, Failed Apple iOS Upgrade Leaves Writer Out in the Cold

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling like I was living inside a bad country music song. A cold rain was falling and my BlackBerry had stopped getting messages sometime around midnight.

At least, I thought, I could entertain myself by trying out the new version of iOS on my iPad. I thought about that as I had my morning meal under a black cloud. No BlackBerry messages meant that I wouldn't start the day with one of life's little pleasures-deleting email without reading it first.

I sat down at my desk to start the day with a new version of iOS. But first I had to upgrade iTunes even though I'd just done that last week. Then I plugged in my iPad, and it decided that today was the day to synchronize with Outlook, even though I had turned off that feature. Trying to sync your BlackBerry and your iPad to Outlook can lead to considerable confusion, so I'd turned off the Blackberry before trying to sync Outlook with the iPad. But I guess the iPad had sensed the BlackBerry's diminished state.

Meanwhile, two messages from yesterday arrived from my eWEEK email account. The BlackBerry buzzed joyously. Then when I tried to sync the BlackBerry, it wanted to get everything from the iPad. I knew that wouldn't end well, so making sure that the BlackBerry was turned off, I plugged in the iPad again.

No joy. iTunes told me that there was no update for my iPad. A check of the Apple Website took me to the photo of Steve Jobs, still there a week after his death. I searched for iOS 5, and was told that it was coming soon. Then iTunes told me again that it had no updates for me. I looked outside and watched the cold rain.

I took some time for lunch and went back to my BlackBerry, which had been charging all morning. There were two more messages from my eWEEK account, but I had already seen those hours earlier.

But then came joy, at least briefly. This time iTunes admitted as to how there might be an update for the iPad after all, so I clicked the button. The software downloaded, but when the install started, it ended in a few minutes with an error message. Apparently iTunes couldn't access one of Apple's Internet sites. The help file suggested I check my firewall to make sure port 80 and port 443 were open. They were.

The BlackBerry buzzed again. Another email message I'd read hours before, thanking me for writing a caption.

Outage Could Set Back RIM Recovery

I thought maybe a walk would clear my head of my disappointment over two mobile devices that wouldn't behave. So I threw on my yellow slicker and went outside to the smell of cold autumn rain, wet leaves, last night's skunk. Finally, I was in the right mood to inflict a column on my editors.

But just in case, I tried iTunes again and it tried and failed to install iOS 5 again. I checked the site that iTunes was having trouble accessing, and it seems like it's pretty busy. Fortunately, the reinstall of iOS doesn't cause any damage when it fails. All that really happens is that everything is backed up, and my apps and data remained as they always were. So while Apple's failure to upgrade might be disappointing, I can chalk it up to what is likely a huge amount of upgrade traffic and overwhelmed servers.

The RIM failure is a little harder to dismiss. On this rainy Wednesday morning, a series of infrastructure failures that started in the Middle East and South Asia migrated across Europe and now were affecting North America. The only thing I could do with my BlackBerry was make phone calls.

So, of course, I called my friends with BlackBerrys to discuss how awful it was that all of the BlackBerrys were out and we couldn't use BlackBerry Messenger, get emails or even browse the Web.

While this was annoying to many BlackBerry users and a significant problem for a few, it's a much bigger problem for RIM. This company could hardly have had a global messaging outage at a worse time. Just as the company had launched some very cool new devices and was starting to get some interest again, the company's messaging services went down globally. This seems to be something that potential users will find hard to overlook.

In fact, considering that RIM has promised again and again that the company has ensured that there would never be another global or even regional outage, this new global outage is pretty disheartening.

So will RIM find that this is the final straw that leads to the disappearance of their dreams of leadership? It's hard to say how long it will take to regain the confidence of BlackBerry users after yet another massive outage. But I do know that the purchase of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 with the touch screen I was planning is going on hold for a while. Now the iPhone 4S looks awfully tempting.

Meanwhile I can delete email using my iPad, even if it's not as convenient. I felt the BlackBerry buzz again-but it was another copy of an email the BlackBerry had delivered hours ago. Time for some Johnny Cash, and deleting email on the iPad while the cold rain falls outside. 

Rocket Fuel