Tough Week for RIM: Worldwide BlackBerry Service Outages

When a device fails to complete the function for which it's specifically designed, it's going to be a problem. That's been the case for Research in Motion Ltd. this week, where a breakdown on the company's network immobilized e-mail and messaging on many BlackBerry devices.

E-mail delays and a malfunctioning BlackBerry Messenger network that began in Europe, the Middle East and Africa quickly reached the Americas, where by Wednesday, messages stopped coming through and BBM went offline.

"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," said RIM President Mike Lazaridis in a video apology on the company's website today.

The breakdown came as a result of a core switch failure in RIM's network infrastructure, which normally delivers e-mails and messages immediately through 'push' technology. While the system is designed to switch to a back-up switch, the change didn't happen, according to the company's site. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and the company had to clear it, RIM said on Wednesday.

"We've let many of you down," Lazaridis said in the video. "It's too soon to say this issue is fully resolved. 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."

Frustrating, indeed. RIM's stock has fallen 59.8 percent this year to $23.12, as the company faces an onslaught of competition as the smartphone market broadens. Even after RIM resolves this service failure, it won't be the end of their troubles this month - Apple's new operating system that was released this week, iOS 5, proudly touts iMessage, a live chat application that may make some BBM-ers wonder at what point their BlackBerries will become obsolete.

LAPTOP contributor