RIM BlackBerry Disruptions Hit North America

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2011-10-12
 
 
 

North American users of Research In Motion's BlackBerry service are apparently experiencing outages.

Those reports come a day after BlackBerry users in parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina all experienced what RIM called "messaging and browsing delays." The company blamed those on a "core switch failure" within its infrastructure.

BlackBerry users in Baltimore, New York City and Ontario told eWEEK they have been experiencing issues with their service. RIM declined to respond directly to a request for comment by press time, but provided some updates through its official channels.

"BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning," RIM wrote in a short message posted Oct. 12 on its Website. "We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience."

In another posting, the company suggested that the issue had become "our Number One priority right now and we are working night and day to restore all BlackBerry services to normal levels."

Security expert Bobby Kuzma, president of Central Florida Technology Solutions, told eWEEK that one possible culprit is RIM's back-end architecture, which routes traffic through the company's Canadian headquarters. "If their clusters had been distributed geographically, this would have disrupted a cluster but not all of them," he said. "If they do have some degree of geographic redundancy in place and it's still spreading, that would speak to some sort of software glitch."

Smartphone services for competitors such as Google Android and Windows Phone, because they don't route through a central "mothership," are theoretically less vulnerable to a global disruption.

Nor did Kuzma dismiss what he termed the "outside chance" of an "externally influenced attack," mostly "because it's taking so long to get this dealt with."

RIM is in the midst of what its executives term a "transition period," with the company prepping a set of QNX-based "superphones" it hopes will allow it to reclaim the initiative against aggressive competitors such as Apple's iPhone and Google Android. Until those devices reach the market, however, RIM will rely on a set of new devices running BlackBerry 7 OS.

During its Sept. 15 earnings call, RIM reported revenue of $4.2 billion for the second quarter of fiscal 2012, a 15 percent decline from the $4.9 billion it earned during the previous quarter. The company shipped some 10.6 million BlackBerry smartphones and around 200,000 BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablets during that period. RIM acknowledges that demand has slowed for its older BlackBerry models.

Some analysts remain pessimistic about RIM's ability to execute its longer-term plans.

"Our checks indicate slowing sell-through of new OS 7 handsets, and we believe a new low-cost iPhone and low-end Android phones will pressure RIM in the mid-range and low-end, respectively," analyst Peter Misek wrote in a co-authored research note for Jefferies & Co.

RIM management "remains bullish on its prospects for the PlayBook and new BlackBerry 7 smartphones," wrote analysts T. Michael Walkley and Matthew Ramsay in a Sept. 16 research note for Canaccord Genuity, but "we maintain our more cautious view as we believe RIM is underestimating the increasingly competitive smartphone environment."

The RIM outage comes at a particularly auspicious moment, considering that Apple-one of its prime competitors-is rolling out its iOS 5 mobile operating system with a new messaging feature, iMessenger, seemingly tailor-made to counter BlackBerry Messenger.

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