BlackBerry users hit by systems failure

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Millions of Blackberry users in North America were trying to recover lost emails on Wednesday after technical problems led to collapse in the service overnight.

Research in Motion, the Ontario-based maker of the handheld e-mailer and cellphone device beloved by executives around the world, said it was closely monitoring its systems following a “service interruption” on Tuesday.

RIM shares opened 1.1 per cent lower at C$147.18 because of the technical difficulties associated with the company’s main product. They had regained some ground by mid-morning, off 0.6 per cent from the opening bell at C$147.90.

A recorded message on the BlackBerry customer service helpline on Wednesday acknowledged there were problems.

“Please be advised that we are currently experiencing a service interruption that is causing delays in sending and receiving messages,” it said. “[We] will provide updates as soon as they become available.”

RIM said in a statement that BlackBerry service had been restored to most users on Wednesday. It was reviewing the root cause of the disruption and “closely monitoring systems to maintain normal service levels.” It gave no details on what caused the outage.

The problems appeared to be largely confined to North America, according to reports.

New York news channel WNBC-TV reported the “massive system failure” happened at 8pm on Tuesday.

It said RIM staff tried to reset the system but were concerned that the backlog of data could cause a bigger problem as it rushed through, now that the system appeared to have been restored.

The technical failure is the latest setback for RIM. In March it was forced to restate $250m of earnings after a seven-month probe into backdating of stock options.

Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive and company co-founder, was forced to give up the chairman’s post as a result of the scandal.

Launched in 1999, the BlackBerry has rapidly grown in popularity and there are currently about 8m subscribers worldwide. The maker of the purple coloured device is also facing growing competition from Palm’s Treo, Motorola’s Q, Samsung’s Blackjack and smartphones from market leader Nokia.

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