Research In Motion (RIM), the manufacturers of BlackBerry phone deals, have again apologised for the recent unprecedented outage. Perhaps more significantly, they’ve also apologised for their lack of thought for their customers, admitting that they should have done more to keep phone users informed of the scale and nature of the problems, as well as the solutions they were working on.
The company is conducting a full audit of its infrastructure, and a large-scale investigation into what went wrong and its own handling of the problems. They’re also putting some substance behind their apologies, in the form of $100 worth of free apps for the customers affected, to be downloaded from their app store at any time up to 31st December. The first of the free apps, Drive Safe.ly, is already available. It allows BlackBerry users to answer texts and emails in hands-free mode, while driving, by dictating the replies.
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Many users will also get a free month of tech support. The reaction from customers and investors alike has been very positive. Shares in RIM jumped 2% in value yesterday morning, but perhaps more importantly for the company, many customers’ anger is turning to delight at the prospect of free games and other apps for their BlackBerries. If this tempts them to stay with the BlackBerry platform instead of being seduced away by an iPhone or Android device, it could make all the difference to the firm’s long-term success.
Whether it will be enough, given RIM’s recent difficulties, remains to be seen. RIM has been struggling to compete with leaner, faster Android machines, and slicker, trendier iPhones, for several months now. With its main unique selling point – reliability – taking a huge hit this week, and with iPhones now successfully eroding another BlackBerry core feature, privacy and encryption, RIM is still not yet in an entirely safe and comfortable position. The Drive Safe.ly app, now free as a compensation for angry customers, previously cost $19.99. However, the Apple iPhone’s Siri does more than the BlackBerry app and comes bundled with the handset – perhaps just another example of RIM’s difficulties in competing with its rivals.
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In other positive news for RIM, though, they’ve just made two operating system-related announcements, that is, the developer release of their new operating system, BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0, and the imminent release of their BlackBerry BBX operating platform with its related OS.
PlayBook OS 2.0 offers full developer integration with Android apps, in the form of BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and BlackBerry Plug-In for Android Development Tools. These should vastly increase the number of apps available for RIM’s PlayBook tablet, since developers will be able to port BlackBerry apps over with minimal effort and time for adaptation.
BBX, when released, will be fully compatible with PlayBook OS 2.0, so Android apps built with the above tools should work fine in BBX-OS too. BBX is built around the reliable QNX operating system, adapted specially for BlackBerries. The first phone specifically designed for the BBX is likely to be the upcoming BlackBerry Colt, which should feature a 4.1 inch touchscreen and 1.2GHz processor.
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There is some concern in the industry that BlackBerry’s wholesale move over to BBX and PlayBook OS 2.0 will make life difficult for existing BlackBerry app developers, who are more experienced with the Java platform it previously made use of, rather than the Android-based setup necessary to take full advantage of the new OS.
It is perhaps a little too early to determine what impact these recent problems have had on the popularity of BlackBerry phone deals, although at present they seem to be holding their own in the current market.