BIS or BS? BlackBerry still doesn’t know

The head of the company that makes BlackBerry smartphones admitted on Thursday he could not say when its services would return to normal after three days of outages, but said progress was being made.

Mike Lazaridis, the president and founder of Canada-based Research in Motion (RIM), used a video message to apologise to the millions of BlackBerry users worldwide who have been starved of instant access to emails and messaging.

The firm said services in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India were returning to normal, although disruptions remained in the United States and Canada — which first experienced problems on Wednesday — and Latin America.

“Since launching BlackBerry in 1999, it’s been my goal to provide reliable real-time communications around the world. We did not deliver on that goal this week, not even close,” Lazaridis said in a video on the RIM website.

Speaking on the fourth day of disruptions, which the firm has blamed on a backlog of emails caused by an initial technical failure, he said: “I apologise for the service outages this week. We’ve let many of you down.”

‘Approaching normal’
Lazaridis added: “I’d like to give you an estimated time of full recovery around the world, but I cannot do this with certainty at this time. For those of you affected I know this is very frustrating.

“We’re doing everything in our power to restore regular service levels, and we’re working tirelessly to restore your trust in us.”

He said BlackBerry services were now “approaching normal” levels in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, although an earlier RIM statement said that problems persist in the Americas.

“Service levels are also progressing well in the US, Canada and Latin America and we are seeing increased traffic throughput on most services, although there are still some delays and services levels may still vary amongst customers,” said the statement, posted online at 4.30am GMT on Thursday.

RIM said on Wednesday that an initial technical failure had prompted a build-up of messages in its network, triggering a cascade of problems around the world that affected many of the firm’s 70-million subscribers.

“It is a backlog issue,” RIM software vice-president David Yach said, ruling out any rumours of sabotage or hacking.

The technical failure reportedly took place at the company’s British hub in Slough, a town west of London.

RIM claimed on Monday the issue had been resolved, but the glitches spread, sparking outrage from BlackBerry users worldwide.

‘BlackBerry is junk’
The problems represent a public relations nightmare for RIM, which has faced weaker sales of the BlackBerry compared with smartphones made by Apple or those running Google’s Android software.

The timing is particularly bad ahead of Apple’s launch on Friday of the latest iteration of its top-selling smartphone, the iPhone 4S, in key world markets.

Major Asia-Pacific markets such as Australia, Japan and South Korea have been unaffected for the most part, but irate users in China and India have reported widespread outages this week.

Much of the anger has been caused by a lack of information about the problems, which Lazaridis acknowledged. He promised to update users more frequently through its websites and social media channels.

Although RIM reported an improved service in India on Thursday, Manoj Bhoj, a marketing executive in India’s financial capital Mumbai, complained of a “communication gap” from the Canadian company.

“We have to update clients with reports and haven’t been able to do so. I just hope it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

There was less sympathy towards RIM from some commentators on microblogging sites in China.

“The BlackBerry is junk. Forget it, I’ll use an iPhone,” BlackBerry user Hun Lingshi wrote. — AFP

Alice Ritchie
Alice Ritchie
AFP journalist covering British politics. South Londoner.
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