BlackBerry’s apology apps may not be enough
TORONTO - The maker of the struggling BlackBerry tried to soothe tens of millions of frustrated customers yesterday, offering more than $100 worth of free software to each one and giving some a month of technical support as compensation for last week’s massive outage.
But some BlackBerry users and specialists cast doubt on whether the freebies from Research In Motion would be enough to keep people from abandoning the tarnished brand in favor of more popular smartphones.
“Most of the people that use BlackBerrys are business people, and all they care about is: ‘Does it work?’ ’’ said Chris Allen, a cable technician in Fall River, Mass.
The free software will be made available over the coming weeks on BlackBerry App World. The premium apps, which typically cost $5 to $15 each, include programs such as iSpeech Translator and the games “Bejeweled’’ and “Texas Hold’em Poker 2.’’
The offer runs until the end of the year. The free technical support will be available to corporate customers.
The blackout began when a crucial traffic-routing computer failed in Europe. A backup also failed, causing a cascade of problems all over the world that interrupted e-mail and Internet services for many, if not most, of the company’s 70 million users for three days.
The disruption could not have come at a worse time for RIM as it struggles to compete with Apple’s iPhone and with smartphones running the Android system from Google Inc.
Apple Inc. released a new iPhone model Friday, quickly selling 4 million of the devices - more than the average number of BlackBerrys RIM sells per month.
RIM is also in the process of transitioning to a new operating system, a major undertaking that introduces even more uncertainty.
Jim Balsillie, one of the company’s co-CEOs, acknowledged yesterday that the manufacturer is under intense pressure. But he defended the handling of its worst-ever outage and noted that RIM has survived rough times before.
“This is something we would like to offer as our form of thanks,’’ Balsillie said.
Balsillie and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis did not comment publicly until Thursday morning, four days after the interruption began.
John Crean, national managing partner of Nation Public Relations, the largest public-relations firm in Canada, said RIM was too slow to react.
“They should have had their CEOs out earlier and more visible,’’ Crean said.
In the first days of the crisis, Balsillie said, he was busy trying to find the root of the problem and did not have time to comment. He said he was in the Middle East and spent day and night on the phone with customers and carriers.
“The brand has diminished significantly in the last year, and this is not helping at all,’’ Crean said. The app offer is a good tactic, Crean said, but by no means a strategy to repair the brand.