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BlackBerrys buzz back to life after long outage
With each instance, the BlackBerry’s position in its core market is undermined.
In the April-to-June period of 2010, 19 percent of the smartphones sold in the world were BlackBerrys, while a nearly equal number, 18 percent, were from a variety of brands that use Google Inc.’s Android software, according to research firm Gartner Inc.
In the same three-month period this year, 12 percent of smartphones were BlackBerrys, while Android phones zoomed to 43 percent, outselling BlackBerrys more than three to one.
BlackBerry phones have not kept pace with the iPhone and its imitators, said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee.
A recently launched update of the flagship “Bold” model with the signature BlackBerry keyboard is selling well, he said, but an all-touchscreen model isn’t. It just doesn’t match up to the iPhone and Android phones.
“If someone really wanted a full touchscreen experience, why would they buy that? You have much better alternatives out there,” Wu said.
RIM launched a tablet computer, the PlayBook, this year. But like other iPad wannabes, it’s been a dud.
In the developing world, the low-end BlackBerry Curve has been the first smartphone for many. It works well on relatively slow cellular networks, which means carriers are happy to push it, knowing that it won’t overwhelm them, said analyst Matthew Robison at Wunderlich Securities.
But that’s being threatened now that even Third World phone companies are upgrading their cellular networks to broadband speeds. That means Web browsing and multimedia will be sexy new applications _ things the Curve does not do well compared with inexpensive touchscreen phones.
“I think it will be tougher for RIM to compete for the emerging-markets consumer,” Robison said. That, he thinks, is a bigger challenge for the company than the outage.
And in North America, the “brand damage is already done,” Robison said. RIM’s inability to keep up with the times means BlackBerrys could soon be quaint reminders of that early flush of excitement about reading email on the go.
The outage started when a crucial traffic-routing computer in BlackBerry’s European network failed. A backup also failed.
Although the underlying issues were quickly repaired, the system had built up a backlog of emails and messages that needed to be released.
Meanwhile, messages destined for the affected countries were piling up at BlackBerry data centers in the rest of the world, slowing service everywhere. Then the outage spread to the U.S. and Canada.
Among smartphones, BlackBerrys are uniquely tied to their manufacturers.
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