Archive for October 13, 2011

Help Me, I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Use my Blackberry

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Man, can you imagine being an engineer at RIM, the makers of the Blackberry? Your company is already facing a stockholder revolt, your stock price has plummeted 60% since the start of the year, you’ve already had to delay your next round of new smart phones, nobody even knows you’re selling a computer tablet meant to compete with the I-Pad, and now….oops…a little planetary failure.

I suppose if you’re going to screw up, do it big; do it globally. The whole thing felt like some digital-viral-pandemic. The first of the zillion people who stopped receiving their Blackberry e-mails were in Europe. And then the Middle East. And Latin America. And India. And Africa. There was a bad “switch” somewhere on one these continents. RIM hasn’t been real detailed in their explanation. But then the back-up switch that supposedly had been previously tested also failed.

Then the e-mails started stacking up, log-jammed, like a bazillion airplanes with suddenly no place to land and RIM playing the role of frantic air traffic controllers. As the suddenly constipated Blackberry system continued to clog up, the outage spilled over to the United States, Canada, Japan and Singapore.

My own Blackberry is testimony to the failure, like a clock that stops at the exact time an earthquake hits. It was 6:56am. Then total e-mail silence until 8:48am. Then nothing from 9:03am until 3:37pm.

But that 3:37 experience was really something. Suddenly, six hours worth of work e-mails started coming over the transom all at once. The vibrating was constant. It caused a momentary epiphany as I thought for one brief moment (brief, I swear), about how the Blackberry, if set to constant vibrating mode, might somehow be repurposed for other uses. I urge you not to linger on this thought too long.

But even though millions were affected and some important meetings may have been missed, I noticed a next-day disturbing trend for RIM. Last major Blackberry outage a few years ago, it was clearly a universal experience. This time around, it was less of an elevator conversation-starter.

“So, did you survive the Blackberry outage?”

“What are you talking about? I have an I-Phone.”


Next week, at the San Francisco Marriott hotel, RIM happens to be holding its annual Blackberry Development Conference. Because right after you have a monumental failure across every continent of the globe that calls into the question the reliability of your service that could easily be displaced by others- what you want to be talking about to the assembled media hordes, is a rehash of your single, most embarrassing corporate moment.