(Adds comments, updated throughout)
By Wojtek Dabrowski
TORONTO Feb 11 Research In Motion's RIM.TO
RIMM.O ubiquitous BlackBerry experienced a "critical severity
outage" on Monday afternoon that left users stranded without
wireless e-mail access, its maker said.
RIM notified its clients of the outage in an e-mail.
Company officials were not available for comment.
"This is an emergency notification regarding the current
BlackBerry Infrastructure outage," RIM support account manager
Bryan Simpson said in the e-mail, which was sent to the
company's large clients. The message said the outage affected
business clients and "users of the Americas network."
The notice gave no estimate on the cause, when service
might be restored or how many people could be affected.
By about 5:30 p.m. Eastern time -- more than an hour after
RIM notified its customers of the problem -- some customers
said a few e-mails were trickling through. Others, however,
continued to be without service.
Still others appeared to enjoy a respite from a device
affectionately dubbed the "CrackBerry" by its more compulsive
users. On Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Liberal Party spokesman
Jean-Francois Del Torchio said things seemed very relaxed for a
"It made my life a little bit easier, since I didn't have
to reply. But when I arrived at my desktop and I saw all the
e-mails I received, I was like, 'Oh, I still need to work'," he
But Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic
consulting at AR Communications, said service reliability is a
serious concern for companies like RIM, because if problems
become routine, they can turn customers and prospective buyers
"It's a big issue and it's a growing issue," he said,
adding that huge outages can prove to be "a major Achilles'
heel" for RIM.
Last April, a massive outage crashed BlackBerry service
across North America, leaving thousands of users without access
to wireless e-mail.
Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said at the time that such incidents
were "very rare" and the Waterloo, Ontario-based company was
taking steps to prevent such an outage from happening again.
Executives, politicians, lawyers and other professionals
rely on the BlackBerry for its ability to send secure e-mails.
RIM is also adding more retail customers to its subscriber
base, which late last year reached about 12 million people
RIM shares fell to $93.25 in after-hours electronic trade,
from their regular-session close of $94.47 on the Nasdaq
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, the shares finished the day
C$4.73 higher at at C$94.62.
(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Rob