Research In Motion (RIM) Ltd said it had restored service to millions of BlackBerry users affected by a three-hour service outage in Europe and Africa on Friday, embarrassing the company on the same day Apple Inc launched its new iPhone.
The disruption echoed a much larger failure that took down BlackBerry service for much of the world in October last year, and boded poorly for the struggling smartphone maker’s turnaround plans.
“That RIM has experienced another outage is worrisome — something hasn’t been put right,” said John Jackson, a wireless analyst at CCS Insight.
Jackson said it was “a bitterly ironic coincidence” that the failure occurred on the same day Apple started selling the iPhone 5 to throngs of fans worldwide who had largely brushed off complaints about a new map feature.
RIM chief executive Thorsten Heins later issued an apology to BlackBerry users who were affected. He said as much as 6 percent of its customer base — or nearly 5 million users — may have experienced e-mail delays for as long as three hours.
“We are conducting a full technical analysis of this quality of service issue and will report as soon as it concludes,” Heins said in the emailed statement. “I again want to apologize to those customers who were impacted today.”
RIM made similar promises, but has yet to provide a complete picture of what caused last year’s four-day outage that left millions of frustrated BlackBerry users on five continents without email, instant messaging and browsing. The disruption coincided with the launch of the iPhone 4S, the new model’s predecessor.
That fault occurred in a facility in England. It initially affected Europe and surrounding regions before spreading to North and South America. It took days for RIM’s chiefs to apologize over the problems and the company’s handling of the issue was heavily criticized.
“This is an opportunity to demonstrate that RIM has learned lessons from last year,” Canalys analyst Pete Cunningham said, speaking before Heins’ apology.
Cunningham acknowledged that the impact of the current problem, which lasted just a few hours, would likely be minimal.
RIM, with more than 78 million subscribers, has watched its customer base grow much more slowly as the iPhone and a slew of devices that run on Google’s Android operating system become more popular. BlackBerry’s market share, meanwhile, has shriveled along with RIM’s share price.