The messaging debacle currently enveloping Research in Motion (RIM) and its BlackBerry services is starting to approach crisis point.
The problem has moved into a fourth day in the Europe, Middle East and Asia regions, with reports emerging of US customers also suffering from a failure that looks set to impact heavily on the reputation of a company already in the midst of an annus horribilis.
RIM says the spread of the problems across The Pond is down to “backlog”. But criticism is mounting, and rightly so. This is becoming an issue that looks set to define the BlackBerry brand in 2011 and will have implications for months to come.
A fix can’t come soon enough, for frustrated BIS users and BlackBerry execs alike. The manner in which the problem has been dealt with has been indicative of RIM’s blase attitude in recent months.
Its co-CEOs' distaste for a BBC reporter’s questions made the company look foolish earlier this year, while its failure to get in front of this story has left millions of users frustrated by a lack of information.
This shouldn’t be hard to get right. Apple’s iPhone 4 antenna disaster should have taught everyone in mobile how not to deal with a major problem. While RIM hasn’t denied the issue, the lack of official information when the story first broke was poor form.
But the question is, can a fix convince BlackBerry Messenger obsessives and messaging-dependent workers that BlackBerry phones and services are the future?
Of course, it’s not possible to simply jump out of a contract because of something like this.
But chances are RIM will feel the full force of its customers as lengthy contracts end. iOS 5’s business savviness, not to mention the arrival of iMessage, have delivered a critical blow to the already ailing RIM.
Google has been steadily improving Android’s security for business, and the attractive pricing and easy to use OS has every chance of gazumping BlackBerry in the enterprise sector.
This problem will have to be sorted in a matter of hours if it’s not to become even more of a global embarrassment for a company still fighting off talk of the collapse of its tablet business following the PlayBook’s failure to catch on.
If this issue drags on into next week, expect disgruntled users to start demanding ways out of contracts, or at least new devices that can handle secure work email and an all-round messaging service.
BBM’s pervasive days could be numbered by this niggle. For Apple and Google this is a delicious failing that they will happily capitalise on. On a wider note, surely this will spell the end for RIM’s co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.
Neither has made a statement on the problem, and with both already under fire for their failure to deliver QNX smartphones or a decent version of the PlayBook’s software, the end is nigh.
That could be the best thing to come out of this. But RIM needs to get things fixed on the ground first. Once it does, addressing issues in the boardroom could at least help bring it back to success.