Subscribers fuming after second service outage

TORONTO — Some BlackBerry users were questioning the reliability of the smartphone’s services on Wednesday after an a second outage in less than a week left subscribers across North America stranded without Internet, email or messenger connectivity.

TORONTO — Some BlackBerry users were questioning the reliability of the smartphone’s services on Wednesday after an a second outage in less than a week left subscribers across North America stranded without Internet, email or messenger connectivity.

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter were bombarded with complaints from BlackBerry users, even as the services appeared to be returning to normal.

Meanwhile, Research In Motion (TSX:RIM), the creator of the BlackBerry and operator of its network, remained relatively silent on the glitches, offering no explanation to consumers on its website Wednesday, and only a brief statement to the media which blamed the problems on a software update.

However, some analysts suggest that RIM has more than a technical glitch on their hands as consumers become increasingly conscious of problems with their BlackBerrys, a factor which some suggest could ultimately tarnish the device’s reputation.

“Anything that erodes that issue of reliability reduces a perceived advantage for RIM — in other words, this is a big deal,” said Duncan Stewart, director of research and analysis at DSam Consulting.

“Human beings are bad at statistics, and when something happens twice in four years, we tend to view them as random events. When they happen one week after another, we think it’s a pattern.”

Word of the outage began to spread Tuesday night as BlackBerry addicts complained about problems with their services.

Before long, the problems were becoming the talking point at Christmas parties and popular social networks.

“I was literally talking to six people over BlackBerry Messenger and all the sudden nobody was replying,” said Corey Marshall, a long-time BlackBerry user.

“I kept unplugging my phone, turning it off and on. I was getting very upset when it wouldn’t work.”

Marshall, 23, said he bases most of his social life on his BlackBerry, and for many friends, only uses the smartphone’s messenger services to keep in touch. When the services went down, he had no way to contact them because he’s never exchanged phone numbers.

“I’ve been used to having a cellphone since I was 14 years old, and my BlackBerry has become a regular part of my routine,” he said.

“My BlackBerry is hugely important to me.”

It was not immediately known how many users were affected, but the company based in Waterloo, Ont., confirmed some emails were delayed, adding that phone and the short message servicing texting function were unaffected.

“Root cause is currently under review but based on preliminary analysis, it currently appears that the issue stemmed from a flaw in two recently released versions of BlackBerry Messenger (versions 5.0.0.55 and 5.0.0.56) that caused an unanticipated database issue within the BlackBerry infrastructure,” a spokesman for RIM said.

“RIM has taken corrective action to restore service.”

RIM said it has also provided a new version of BlackBerry Messenger (version 5.0.0.57) and was encouraging anyone who downloaded or upgraded the instant messaging program since Dec. 14 to upgrade to the latest version.

The new version of BlackBerry Messenger was made available through RIM’s BlackBerry App World storefront application.

The latest glitches come on the heels of another BlackBerry email outage in North America that occurred last Thursday. At the time, Research In Motion said technicians had isolated and resolved the issue and were investigating the cause of the outages. The company didn’t say how many users were affected.

Prior to that, the last time RIM’s BlackBerry service had a major outage was in February 2008, when an upgrade to the wireless system appeared to have been behind a three-hour service disruption.

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