RIM Struggles to Overcome BlackBerry Outages (NYTimes BITS)

Research in Motion said Thursday that it is still trying to restore full service for BlackBerry customers spanning five continents.

The company, which not only makes the phone but also operates the worldwide BlackBerry network, said on its Web site that services across Europe, the Middle East and Africa had improved significantly, and that services in the United States, Canada and Latin America were “progressing well.”

“We’re seeing steady improvements,” co-chief executive Mike Lazaridis said in a video posted on the site. “We expect to see continued progress and possibly some instability as the system comes back to normal service levels everywhere.”

Service interruptions began on Monday, and initially affected BlackBerry owners in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. By Tuesday, the problem migrated to Brazil, India, Chile and Argentina. On Wednesday, users in North America began complaining of the same disruptions. The failures have left subscribers in the affected regions without access to BlackBerry’s instant messaging service and the Web.

This week’s hit couldn’t come at a worse time for the handset maker, which is fending off a growing crowd of agitated investors, who are calling on the company to explore strategic options and new leadership. Shares of the company have fallen nearly 60 percent this year as smartphone buyers increasingly choose Android phones or iPhones. On Wednesday, as news of the spreading network problems caused shares of RIM to dip even lower, falling more than 2 percent to close at $23.88.

Analysts say that RIM was battling to restore more than service to the millions faced with glitches to BlackBerry cellphone service. The company was also fighting for its foothold in a rapidly changing industry.

“It’s symbolic of what’s going on at the company,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC partners who follows the telecom industry. “It’s a bloodbath.”


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