RIM suffers from, and quickly fixes, BlackBerry outage in EMEA

Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) suffered a brief BlackBerry service outage today in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, knocking out subscribers' access email. However, the company said the service disruption was quickly fixed, a markedly different response from the three-day global outage that hit RIM in October 2011.

"Our apologies to any customers impacted by the BlackBerry service issue today," RIM said in a statement. "We can confirm that services have been restored and are now operating normally."

For several hours before service was restored users could not access email. RIM did not indicate how many customers were affected or what the cause of the problem was. It was not clear how many operators were affected. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vodafone said BlackBerry customers in numerous European countries had been affected, including those in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece. However, Deutsche Telekom said it was not aware of any issues, as was U.K. operator EE. Telefónica's O2 UK said it was investigating the issue, the Journal said.

Like last year's outage, the timing could not be worse for RIM, coming on the day Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 goes on sale. Last year the outage coincided near the launch of Apple's iPhone 4S, and seemed to highlight the struggles the BlackBerry maker faces in regaining ground it has lost to Apple and smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform.

The 2011 outage, which was the largest in RIM's history, lasted around three days in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa; one and a half days in Latin America and Canada; and one day in the United States. RIM said the outages were the result of a core switch failure in RIM's network infrastructure, which encrypts and routes email messages and other data, making it more secure. Although RIM's system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, it did not work as previously tested, creating a backlog of data. This caused RIM to "throttle" service in the affected regions, which then created more disruptions in regions not previously affected, including North America.

Afterward, RIM formed a "SWAT team" inside the company to look into the cause of the outage, which dinged the company's reputation for reliability, and whether RIM's network needed to be architected differently. The outage was a black eye for co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, who stepped down in January amid mounting investor pressure over the direction of the company.

CEO Thorsten Heins came in after the departure of Balsillie and Lazaridis, slashed 5,000 jobs and has pushed the company to execute on its BlackBerry 10 platform. The products, which were originally scheduled to be launched this year, will now be released in early 2013. Heins and his executive team have been busy selling carriers on the new platform, which RIM hopes will turn around its sagging market share. According to research firm Gartner, in the second quarter of 2012 RIM captured 5.2 percent of global smartphone sales compared to 11.7 percent in the year-ago period.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this CNET article

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