There are news reports this evening about a major problem with RIM's BlackBerry Smartphone services. According to an AP story, an unspecified problem beginning at about 1000 GMT today cut off email and Internet access, including BlackBerry Messenger service, to millions of BlackBerry users across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The AP story says that the problem was blamed on RIM server problems in Canada, while this story from the Independent in London blamed the outage on RIM servers issues in the United Kingdom.
A story in the Financial Times of London reports that at least 10 million of RIM's 70 million BlackBerry users were affected. While the problem occurred mid-morning in Europe, it wasn't until late afternoon that RIM acknowledged there even was a problem, the FT reported. That slow response has probably not sat well with BlackBerry users, many of whom may be looking to buy rival Smartphones and don't need much of an excuse.
In a short—two sentence—statement, the RIM apologized to its customers "for any inconvenience caused."
The AP story says that RIM is also warning that "...some customers may continue to experience delays with instant messaging and browsing services."
There have been a couple of notable BlackBerry outages over the past few years as well (see here and here, for example).
I'll update this story as better information becomes available.
Update (Oct. 11, 2011)
After RIM said that everything was back to normal this morning, apparently there are new problems with BlackBerry services this afternoon—albeit with the same symptoms—cropping up today across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
RIM has been very closed-mouthed concerning the outage from yesterday, and they are no more open about today's. Customers are not happy.
I'll again update this as events transpire.
Update (Oct. 12, 2011)
Late yesterday, RIM finally said that it had traced the problem it was having to a "core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure" as well as a failure of a previously tested back-up switch. The company had hoped that services would be back to normal by today.
Unfortunately, there are new reports today that indicate that not only has the problem not been contained and solved, but that instead it has spread into North America. According to this AP report, some Canadian and U.S. BlackBerry users have found that they are now having trouble with their email service.
This note posted today on BlackBerry's Web site at 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."
It is unknown how many BlackBerry users are now affected, but probably many more than the 10 million thought to be affected on Monday when the problem first emerged.
Update (Oct 13, 2011)
Well, it finally looks like RIM's major service problems are receding but they may still continue for some BlackBerry users for awhile.
RIM, after being exceedingly tone deaf to the criticism it was receiving for being so uncommunicative about the service interruptions,finally posted more than a couple line cryptic explanation as well as a video apology this morning from Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of RIM.
In the video, Co-CEO Lazaridis apologized for the outage and stated that BlackBerry services were slowly coming back online. However, he also said the company could not say for certain when all services across all regions would be back to normal. He said there still could be service issues cropping up.
The BlackBerry press release, which was a statement from Robin Bienfait, RIM's CIO gives another apology as well as provides status information as of late yesterday for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, Canada and Latin America and for the US, each of which were affected slightly differently. The main focus of RIM now seems on working through the backlog of emails and other messages. The press release seems to confirm that a very large portion of RIM's 70 million BlackBerry users were affected by the outage.
It will be interesting to see whether this latest - and likely to be longest and most far reaching - outage will have any material affect on the company's long-term outlook. The next big issue will be dealing with compensation demands from both corporate and individual users, more than a few who are exceedingly angry. If RIM handles this poorly, it will be another nail in the company's reputation and market place coffin.
Update (Oct 14, 2011)
BlackBerry service now seems to be fully back to normal. There are no news reports of any continuing service problems.
It is estimated that some 40 million BlackBerry users were affected by the glitch, although none within Japan itself (Japanese BlackBerry users did have trouble connecting to non-Japanese BlackBerry users, however).
As I mentioned yesterday, claiming compensation for the outage seems to be the main concern of users now. RIM has made no official comment on paying compensation other than to tell customers that:
"We will get back to them.”
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.