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Last updated: October 17, 2011 3:05 pm
Research In Motion is to give BlackBerry users more than $100 worth of free applications as a way of apologising for the outage that took down the smartphone’s email service for three days last week across many parts of the world.
The Canadian company said that from October 19 to the end of the year, customers would be able to download from a selection of premium apps on the BlackBerry App World Store, including games such as Sims 3, Bejewelled and Texas Hold’em Poker, the music discovery service Shazam Encore and a selection of hands-free voice to text programmes. BlackBerry will add to the current list of 12 titles over the next month.
Users will also get one month’s extension of their technical service contract.
“We have apologised to our customers and we will work tirelessly to restore their confidence. We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again,” said Mike Lazaridis, co-chief executive of RIM.
BlackBerry users across Europe, the Middle East and Africa were unable to use their messaging and email services for three days last week after a switch failed at RIM’s data centre in Slough in the UK. The problem later spread to Latin America, Canada and the US. A back-up system also failed to work as planned, prolonging the disruption.
Patrick Spence, RIM’s managing director for global sales and regional marketing, said that although the company had not yet calculated the cost of the outage and the compensation, it will “not be material” for the company’s results in the current financial quarter, which ends on November 26.
The company, which has more than 70m users, is in discussions with mobile phone operators, some of whom may want an additional pay-out for the disruption. Operators Etisalat and Du in the United Arab Emirates had already promised their customers compensation for the downtime. RIM would not comment on whether it would be footing the bill for this.
RIM’s compensation plan drew mixed reactions. Azeem Azhar, chief executive of PeerIndex, which measures online influence, wrote on Twitter that: “It’s like a sausage eating contest where the prize is..... MORE SAUSAGES!”
“It is actually very clever. It gives users a fair bit of value but it also locks them into the ecosystem. If they can pull it off, it could add value to the company,” said Peter Misek, analyst at Jefferies.
However, an accountant who uses the Twitter username Suri was more positive: “Sounds good to me! What else one can expect? Real consumers will be happy, I suppose.”
“What the company wants to offer as an olive branch may be seen as a shackle to others, locking in users to the platform while rejuvenating interest in the ailing app store,” said Fred Huet, managing director of the telecoms consultancy Greenwich Consulting.
“Yet, it cannot be denied that the company has acted swiftly to compensate users and with its core teen user base, $100 worth of apps will go some way to ensuring RIM does not lose too many fans.”
BlackBerry Apps World has about 40,000 apps available and has had around 1bn downloads, some way behind Apple’s App Store, which is thought to have passed the 15bn mark for downloads earlier this year.
In addition to compensation, David Yach, RIM’s chief technology officer for software, is leading an audit to discover the root cause of disruption, which is expected to report to the board within weeks.
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