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Blackberry outage spreads to U.S. and Canada

A man looks at his email on a Blackberry.

Kai Ryssdal: We're well into day three of a huge outage for the BlackBerry smartphone network. It started over in Europe, then the Middle East, Africa, India. Now it's spread over here.

Service interruptions and long delays in web browsing, messaging and emailing -- all that stuff you want a smartphone for. It's trouble for businesses and governments in particular, organizations that tend to sign all their employees up for BlackBerrys. People in Congress have started calling it "Blackopalypse."

Not the kind of buzz likely to keep BlackBerry users being BlackBerry users for very long. Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.


Mitchell Hartman: Research in Motion, the Canadian parent company of BlackBerry, was already in trouble before this outage. It's been losing market share to the iPhone and Android, and its stock price is way down.

The last time BlackBerry's network crashed like this, freezing out business and government users, was in 2009. Brian Cooley of CNET says things have changed since then.

Brian Cooley: So many of these companies have become used to, in the last couple of years, letting employees carry what they want -- an iPhone or an Android device -- and still connect to the company email and calendar. They've had to, because people want different devices now.

Cooley says this latest outage could hurt BlackBerry's ability to hold onto the customers it still has.

Cooley: This is going to, I think, tip some unknown percent of people who are iPhone intenders but weren't quite ready to pull the trigger to make the jump from the Blackberry.

But jumping isn't so easy if you're an individual subscriber, because you probably signed up for a one- or two-year contract that got you a cheap BlackBerry but will hit you with a big penalty if you bail.

Carl Howe is a technology analyst at the Yankee Group. He says a growing number of customers are saying "No" to long-term contracts, and opting to prepay month-to-month for their service instead.

Carl Howe: In those contracts, you pay more for your phone but less for your service. I think consumers are getting smarter about making that trade-off.

Research in Motion, meanwhile, now has to brace for another competitive headache -- Apple comes out with its new iPhone 4S on Friday.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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