BlackBerry revives after outage in Europe, Mideast, Africa

BlackBerry says it has fixed a service outage which affected users in Europe, Middle East and Africa — interrupting service for customers on Friday, the very day Apple unveiled its hot new iPhone 5.

RIM chief executive apologizes to customers, saying problem has been fixed

BlackBerry maker Research in Motion reported service outages in Europe, Middle East, and Africa on Friday. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Struggling BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion said Friday it resolved an outage affecting users in Europe, Middle East and Africa that had interrupted service for customers on the very day Apple Inc. unveiled its new iPhone 5.

BlackBerry announced the issues in postings on Facebook and Twitter on Friday, and said it fixed the troubles after a few hours. President and chief executive Thorsten Heins apologized to customers for the inconvenience.

"Up to six per cent of our user base may have been affected. Preliminary analysis suggests that those customers may have experienced a maximum delay of three hours in the delivery and reception of messages," Heins said.

"We are conducting a full technical analysis of this quality-of-service issue and will report as soon as it concludes," he said.

The outage brought up unpleasant memories of last year's troubles with emails and chat messages that left many users bereft for up to three days. The timing could not have been worse, coming as lines formed outside of Apple stores in a number of cities as the new iPhone 5 went on sale.

RIM spokeswoman Amy Jones said the outage was limited to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Jones did not have details on what caused it.   

"It's the worst timing," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said.

New software at fault?

"This is bad publicity, and it's very unfortunate. But frankly, the attention is all going to be on Apple today, all the weekend and frankly until the end of the year. Frankly, it's kind of irrelevant. The only thing that's relevant is when they are going to come out with their new phones."  

Misek said he thinks the transition to the BlackBerry 10 software intended to run their new line of smartphones, could be a cause of the outage. RIM is preparing to launch the new phones early next year, after a series of delays.    

"We think that switch over is causing the difficulties," Misek said. The latest outage comes as customers are abandoning their BlackBerrys for flashier iPhones and Android phones.   

RIM was once Canada's most valuable company with a market value of more than $80 billion in June 2008, but the stock has plummeted since, from over $140 share to around $7.

Shares traded down 1.5 percent, or 30 cents, to $6.80 in premarket trading on the Nasdaq.  RIM's decline is evoking memories of Nortel, another Canadian tech giant, which declared bankruptcy in 2009.