Wall Street's CrackBerry Withdrawal Research in Motion's BlackBerry outage spread to the United States late Tuesday, leaving Wall Street bankers without their usual e-mail and messaging fix.
BlackBerry is widely referred to as "CrackBerry" in Canada and the United States, which alludes to its excessive use by its owners and is a reference to the addictiveness of crack cocaine. "CrackBerry.com" is also the name chosen for a technology website about the BlackBerry phone line, and the website is popular among BlackBerry users. Use of the term CrackBerry became so widespread that in November 2006 Webster's New World College Dictionary named "crackberry" the "New Word of the Year."
Another burning platform
Oct 12th 2011, 7:52 by P.L.
YOU can’t live with them, but you can’t live without them. Users of BlackBerry smartphones often curse the flashing red light that tells them, wherever they are, that yet another e-mail demands their attention. But they curse its absence even more. On October 11th lots of them, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and South America, had to twiddle their thumbs rather than click away at their smartphones. For many, service had been interrupted for the second day running. On October 12th problems were reported in North America, too. Plenty tweeted their rage at Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that makes BlackBerrys—presumably from other devices.
For RIM, the interruptions could scarcely have come at a worse time. The company has had a bad year. In its most recent quarter (ending in August) its revenues were 10% lower than a year before, at $4.2 billion. Its profit, at $329m, was down by more than half. According to Gartner, a research and consulting firm, in the second (calendar) quarter RIM’s share of the smartphone market declined to 12%, from 19% a year earlier.
BlackBerrys, it is true, still have lots of enthusiastic followers. Commuters and corporate road warriors needing to keep in touch with colleagues and clients swear by them, as well as into them and at them. A QWERTY keyboard of buttons is kind to clumsy middle-aged thumbs (though touch screens are also on offer). Information-technology departments, particularly in companies that put a special premium on security, love them too: life is fairly simple with a PC on every desk and a BlackBerry, connected to the corporate e-mail system, in every hand. And many youngsters, especially in Britain, have taken eagerly to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), a free instant-messaging service. Less happily, politicians called for BBM to be shut temporarily during this summer’s English riots, because some were using it to organise disturbances.
But the smartphone business is changing—away from RIM. Not only a growing number of road warriors, but also their bosses, want to use their own smartphones rather than company-issue BlackBerrys, and are increasingly allowed to do so. Apple’s iPhone and the many Android-based competitors boast many more apps, and are simply trendier. Ageing men in suits can be fashion slaves, too.
It has not helped that RIM was slow to get new products to market, although phones with a new operating system are now appearing. The company is not only smarting, so to speak, in its core business. It has also made a lacklustre entry into the tablet market, shipping 500,000 its PlayBooks in its first quarter but only 200,000 in its second. Gartner describes its tablet operating system, QNX, as “a promising platform”, and thinks RIM may sell 3m units this year. But that compares with nearly 47m iPads, or 73% of the market by volume.
Investors as well as customers are getting impatient. RIM’s share price has fallen by more than 60% since February. Whatever wonders its co-chairmen and chief executives, Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, have worked in the past, two leaders now look as bad as none. Jaguar Financial, a Canadian investment bank, smells complacency. It wants a change at the top and in direction, perhaps even to break RIM into three: a network company, a device-maker and a holder of patents. It claims the support of the owners of 8% of RIM’s shares.
Bosses and shareholders at Nokia, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo! and elsewhere have already found that change in the tech world can be disarmingly sudden. Now it is RIM’s turn to suffer a dramatic loss of power. In more ways than one.
For BlackBerry Maker, Crisis Mounts
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