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Thursday, October 13, 2011

BlackBerry Service Restored, Company Says

By WILL CONNORS And LILLY VITOROVICH (Wall Street Journal)

Research In Motion Ltd. said it has fully restored service to its global network early Thursday, as it ramped up communication with carriers and customers—apologizing for the continued delays.
Co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis—who has stayed out of the public eye since Monday, when outages first struck Europe and other markets—appeared on a conference call early Thursday. He apologized for the outages and said the backlog of messages that had clogged systems since Monday is being cleared up.
The outage started with a failure in RIM's European data center, and cascaded across the world. Mr. Lazaridis said the outage was the largest in its history and likely caused by a hardware problem. "We don't know why the switch failed in the particular way that it did," he said.
Mr. Lazaridis and co-CEO Jim Balsillie stopped short of promising any sort of compensation for affected customers, saying such discussions "have not been our priority" as the company scrambles to fix its service. "That's something we are now turning our attention to," Mr. Balsillie said on the call.
Early Thursday, some U.S. customers were still complaining of missing emails. European and Mideast carriers reported improved services.
RIM, meanwhile, mobilized executives around the world to reach out to customers. On Thursday morning Patrick Spence, RIM's head of global sales and regional marketing, told reporters in India that the company was doing everything in its power to restore service, but he declined to say when the company expects normal operations to resume.
Without providing details, Mr. Spence said that RIM will work to overhaul its infrastructure to avoid future service disruptions.
RIM employees are leaving "no stone unturned" to restore service to normal, Mr. Spence said in the conference call. Once that happens the company will work to discover the root cause of the problem, consider compensation for phone carriers affected by this week's outages and try to reassure customers of BlackBerry's reliability, Mr. Spence said.
Vodafone Group PLC, the world's biggest mobile operator by revenue, said Thursday that RIM has informed them that email and its BlackBerry Messenger services are "now in the process of being restored and should be functioning as normal for most customers, although there might be still some cases where web browsing may still be unavailable."
A Vodafone spokesman said the company is "reviewing all options" on the question of compensation for affected customers.
Users in Asia had to contend with patch service Thursday.
The restoration comes after the company earlier blamed service outages affecting customers in Europe, the Mideast, Latin America and India on an internal technical glitch: a failed switch and an inoperable backup. But even as the company had promised customers on Tuesday that it had fixed that problem—and expected customer service to quickly return—disruptions spread Wednesday to previously unaffected markets, like Asia and the U.S.
RIM has said it expected some data delays after its fix, as it worked to send out a "backlog" of data to users.
—Guarav Raghuvanshi and Archibald Preuschat contributed to this article.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

RIM's BlackBerry outages come at worst possible time

by Larry Dignan (CNET.com) October 12, 2011 9:15 AM PDT

Research In Motion's rolling global outages could be a major body blow for a company looking to get off the mat. In fact, the timing of these outages is simply brutal.
Here are the moving parts:
  • RIM is trying to convince folks to buy its BlackBerry 7 devices and has an iPhone 4S launch as well as a bevy of Android phones hitting the market.
  • Its developer conference is next week and RIM has to rev up its supporters.
  • A crucial QNX update is coming in weeks ahead that will make or break RIM's PlayBook tablet.
  • Emerging markets are RIM's one strong suit.
All of those items are overshadowed by a company that now can't keep its service running. Today, RIM is seeing outages in North America and South America. The outages are tied to a botched "failover to a backup switch." Now the BlackBerry service is backed up with data. Keep in mind that e-mail and messaging is the reason that BlackBerry devices are still popular to some degree. RIM is associated with security, messaging, and enterprise-grade service. An infrastructure meltdown at this point just doesn't look good.
This timeline of outages from RIM is simply a mess:
Wednesday 12th October - 9:45 (GMT-5)
BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning. 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.
Wednesday 12th October - 12:00 (GMT+1)
We know that many of you are still experiencing service problems. The resolution of this service issue is our Number One priority right now and we are working night and day to restore all BlackBerry services to normal levels. We will continue to keep this page updated.
Tuesday 11th October - 21:30 (GMT+1)
The messaging and browsing delays that some of you are still experiencing were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to many of you and we will continue to keep you informed.
Tuesday 11th October - 16:00 (GMT+1)
Some of you are experiencing messaging and browsing delays. We are working to restore normal service as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.
Monday 10th October - 20:46 (GMT+1)
Our sincere apologies to all of you affected by today's BlackBerry service issues.
Monday 10th October - 15:00 (GMT+1)
We are currently working to resolve an issue impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. In the meantime, we apologise to you for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.
For another company, these outages would be taken in stride. In fact, RIM has had outages before and came out just fine. However, the stakes are much higher now.
Rest assured that the BlackBerry outages of late will be duly noted by activist investors that are trying to force a RIM takeover or at least boot the company's co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. These outages will also be an issue for any potential acquirer of RIM.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek crushed RIM in a research note today. His memo to activists was that RIM's turnaround will take a long time. Misek's point:
We believe any potential acquirers will wait until the QNX transition is completed as they will not know what they are buying otherwise. Also, we believe acquirers will wait to see if Windows 8 becomes the third mobile ecosystem as its success or failure will dramatically alter the strategic situation and RIM's valuation. We also believe it will be difficult to extract value from RIM in a break up or a management change scenario.
Specifically, Misek said that RIM can't be broken up until its migration to QNX is complete in roughly six months. Meanwhile, a management change is difficult. Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha would be a candidate to lead RIM, but he's highly thought of at Google. Other executives at Apple and Microsoft are largely locked up from going to RIM. PC makers, smartphone rivals, and other takeover options look slim.
Add it up and RIM's only real option at the moment is to execute well and bolster momentum for the BlackBerry. The outages aren't helping that cause.