RIM Offers Free Apps To BlackBerry Users

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RIM is placating angry BlackBerry owners with free premium apps, not cash, after last week’s outages

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has announced plans to give out more than $100 worth of premium apps per customer, as compensation for the the four day outage it suffered last week.

In a statement released this morning, the company said that the apps would be made available to customers over the coming weeks via its BlackBerry App World, as an “expression of appreciation for their patience” during the recent service disruptions.

“We are grateful to our loyal BlackBerry customers for their patience,” said RIM co-CEO Mike Lazaridis. “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,” he added.

The apps on offer are a mixture of games and enterprise apps, ranging from SIMS 3 and Texas Hold’em Poker 2 to iSpeech Translator Pro and Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant. RIM’s enterprise customers will also be offered one month of free technical support, the company said.

Week of disruptions

The offer follows a week of disruptions to BlackBerry data services around the world, due to a “core switch failure” at RIM’s data centre in Slough.

The problems began at around 11am on Monday 10 October, affecting users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). A few hours later RIM claimed to have fixed the problem, but online services crashed again on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday it was reported that the trouble had spread to North America.

“Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested,” the company said. “As a result, a large backlog of data was generated.”

This backlog of email traffic from the EMEA region is what brought down online services in North America, explained David Yach, chief technology officer of software for RIM. However, Lazardis confirmed on a 13 October conference call that the services had been restored.

Transition period for RIM

RIM is in the midst of what its executives term a “transition period,” with the company prepping a set of QNX-based “superphones” it hopes will allow it to reclaim the initiative against aggressive competitors such as Apple’s iPhone and Google Android.

RIM acknowledges that demand has slowed for its older BlackBerry models. During its 15 September earnings call, RIM reported revenue of $4.2 billion (£2.7bn) for the second quarter of fiscal 2011 – a 15 percent decline from the $4.9 billion (£3.1bn) it earned during the previous quarter.

The company shipped some 10.6 million BlackBerry smartphones and around 200,000 BlackBerry-branded PlayBook tablets during that period. In a bid to maintain its market share until the QNX devices arrive on the market, the company recently launched a new line of BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry 7 OS.

However, a recent survey of more than 1,000 BlackBerry customers by shopping comparison website Kelkoo found that one in five are considering dumping their BlackBerrys and opting for another handset supplier, following the service outages.

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