Hope, Fear Surround the BlackBerry Blackout Scare

Updated: The lack of details surrounding Research In Motion's workaround worries some industry observers, while some customers say they are confident their service will stay intact.

BlackBerry customers and industry observers remained hopeful, concerned and in the dark Thursday, following a court ruling that could lead to the shutdown of BlackBerry service in the United States.

Research In Motion Ltd. maintains that the company has tested and readied a legal technical workaround just in case the judge goes through with an injunction before the Patent Office makes its ruling.

But the lack of details about the workaround worries some industry observers.

"A lot of clients are very upset and a lot of clients are scared about this," said Phil Redman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

"Were excited to hear what the workaround is, but were afraid its still going to fall under the injunction."

Some customers remain confident that their service will stay intact because BlackBerry usage is so prevalent.

"Since Congress and other users depend on RIM for workflows that impact national security, Im convinced that RIM and BlackBerry will survive," said John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Medical School and Caregroup Health Systems in Boston, which supports a total of 800 BlackBerry devices.

"If I must, Id very reluctantly consider a smart phone such as the Samsung."

"Ive gotta believe the economics are going to force some resolution," said Jim Whalen, CTO of Boston Properties in Boston, which supports some 130 BlackBerry devices.

"Im concerned, and weve kept abreast of whats going on, but theres just too much at stake here for this not to be resolved in some way. …We dont have a backup plan. If it comes, well have to work with Verizon [Wireless] to figure something out."

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about RIMs assurances of a BlackBerry workaround.

The major carriers in the United States offer RIM devices and services, but most offer competing solutions, too.

"We do offer other e-mail devices," said Brenda Rainey, a spokesperson for Verizon Wireless in Bedminster, N.J.

In addition to BlackBerry services, Verizon also offers a push e-mail service called VZAccess.

It is based on software from Intellisync Corp., a company recently acquired by Nokia Inc.

Nokia has patent licensing agreements with NTP Inc., the company that sued RIM for patent infringement in 2001.

Next Page: Worst-case scenario.