BlackBerry users the world over experienced a rude shock as the past few days proved to be quite harrowing, thanks to the disruption of BB services in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. The outage was caused due to a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure. BlackBerry users were unable to access the web, or email and worse still BBM.
After three days of downtime, the services were finally restored on Thursday, but owing to the backlog it will take a while for normalcy to resume. Speaking at a press conference RIM’s chief executives, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, apologized to their 70 million users across the globe and admitted that their inability to quickly fix the outage had been frustrating. Balsillie was quoted saying that their focus has been 100 percent on getting the systems up and running further adding that the company would begin looking at ways to placate the customers.
BlackBerry, often addressed as “Crackberry” owing to its addiction amongst users, has been a game changer in recent years and enjoys legions of consumers the world over. But the recent loss of data services could seriously hinder the Canadian Manufacturer’s reputation. This situation has so closely followed the death of Steve Jobs that the Internet was awash with messages like – Steve Jobs went to heaven and pulled the plug on BlackBerry services, thank you BlackBerry for honoring Steve Jobs death with a 3-day silence, iPhone says to BlackBerry “iWork”. On the other hand it had BB loyalists wallowing in misery. They poured their hearts out and aired their frustration on every available platform be it social, blog or forums.
We spoke with few BlackBerry users to get their reaction, here’s what they had to say –
The generic feeling seemed to be that the service breakdown acted as a wake-up call that made them realize just how dependant and used to the service people had become and how helpless they felt by its breakdown. Simran Channey, 26-year old marketing executive and a BlackBerry user for almost two years, was deeply affected. She says, “It gave me sleepless nights because I am addicted to Twitter on BlackBerry and often, when I don’t get sleep, I surf on my phone.” So great was her frustration that she even mused with the idea of switching over to Apple, but was held back by monetary concerns. She is not alone, there are many who are addicted to their BBs and are connected 24/7.
Pouring out on Facebook
Vidhi Shah, Account Coordinator, Text 100 and a BB user for the last two years felt totally disconnected. Vidhi says, “No emails, messages and internet was like being cut off from the world. It’s like an addiction to keep checking your phone. BB recent updates are like news flashes so you’ll know what’s happening in the world. Thus, I felt totally out of touch with people. I kept checking my phone, because I am so used to that. But it is not a bad addiction, so I don’t need to cut back. In fact, being in the PR profession, it is important for us to stay connected and it’s also the best way to keep in touch with friends and family across the globe.”
While for some like Desiree Fernandes a 26 year old Account Group head with CNBC TV18, who has been using a BlackBerry since 2008, the outage acted as a blessing in disguise – “I was affected a little, but at the same time was relieved from the non stop emails and forwards. So the breakdown helped me revisit the old life and I quite liked the break. But having said that, I don’t want to switch to another smartphone, you never know, they could have similar problems.”
While 27-year old, Sonal Sheopori, a Film Production & Marketing professional who has been using Blackberry for over a year says that the service outage made her realize how useless her Blackberry was without its services and also made her a safe driver. She says, “The only thing that did not work on my phone was BBM and Twitter, the 2 things I generally use when I need a distraction. But yes I did become a safer driver and actually made an effort to converse with people at a party than constantly mess with my BBM. I also realized Blackberry is the most useless phone without its services.”
The outage also significantly affected huge corporate houses who had provided their employees with BlackBerry for official purposes. Especially for those in marketing who are mostly in the field and the BlackBerry service is their lifeline. Viresh Shah, 31-year old, General Manager – Sales, C&E Media, faced considerable problems because of the downtime. He says, “I don’t use BBM much but rely heavily on the email service for official purposes. The downtime affected me as I was not able to send or receive emails. But despite the problem I am not thinking of switching over to another phone, as BlackBerry has been quite reliable for years now and one glitch doesn’t change things much.”
On the other hand there is 29-year old Varun Jha, a marketing professional who uses the BlackBerry just because it has been provided by his office for the past four years. Given a choice he would opt for an Android or an iPhone and the service outage has further strengthened his belief, he says, “BlackBerry phones have less features, not that great apps and even the BB connection is slower. Apart from that, the recent breakdown affected me badly since I was in Ukraine on business and I needed to be in touch with my India office through emails / BBM. But due to the breakdown my work got severely hampered.”
All in all after being used to and depending on BlackBerry especially on the BBM feature over the years, the recent outage caused a lot of grief to quite a few people. Some realized how addicted they were, while others took heart in the fact that they could do without the service and for those using BlackBerry for business, the three days proved to be quite taxing. But RIM is going to have to seriously up their game after this fiasco to retain their membership in the ‘big-player' market.
However, as some one said, one glitch is not enough to make a large mass of loyal followers deviate to the opposition. That being said, let’s just hope that’s the last we see of RIM’s core failure outage.
One thing to emerge out of the whole scenario is the fact that for most part the Blackberry has some loyal users who aren’t ready to toss the berry in favor of an Apple, or a dessert (read Android), just as yet.
To view RIM's public apology over the BlackBerry outage, click here.