Belfast Telegraph

Time RIM reconnected with their customers

By Margaret Canning

If this was my company, this would be fixed by now." So snarled the impatient tones of Amstrad founder Lord Sugar as he lambasted the beleaguered bosses at Research in Motion via micro social network Twitter.

They are the unfortunate wretches who have faced a well-deserved barrage of complaints and negative publicity after the BlackBerry smartphone was dogged by days of technical problems this week.

This writer is among many suffering withdrawal symptoms from the usual joys of smartphone connectedness, not least of all having Twitter to entertain oneself with on the bus to work.

Text and phone functions are still operating but internet, email plus Twitter and Facebook apps have been paralysed.

The damaging consequences of such prolonged product problems cannot be underestimated.

The timing is also working against RIM, which is already having to contend with a reverence surrounding products from its rival Apple after the death of its chief Steve Jobs, and this week's launch of the much-hyped iPhone 4S, the latest cult product from the Apple stable.

The BlackBerry has millions of loyal users, but many may depart the next time their contracts are up for renewal, if a Twitter stream of around 40 tweets per minute from annoyed customers can be believed.

It also underlines our almost freakish reliance on smartphones for keeping us in touch with each other.

In a prolonged rant on Twitter, Lord Sugar spoke for many as he moaned: ""In all my years in IT biz, I've never seen such a outage as experienced by BlackBerry. I can't understand why it's taking so long to fix."

A later post read: "All my companies use BlackBerrys, everyone so reliant on getting email on the move, people don't know if they are coming or going."

And, with a directness which has caused many's an Apprentice candidate to shrink back into their chair, deflated, the Labour peer said: "I just don't get it, servers are always conking out, you have contingency plans." He added: "I'll tell you what even without knowing the ins and outs of what's wrong.

"If it was my company It would have been fixed by now."

He couldn't resist a dig at the fact that the fault has allegedly been traced to a RIM hub in Slough, location of BBC mockumentary The Office. "If the BB server fault is in Slough they need Ricky Gervais to sort it," he said, referring to the comedian who played hapless Wernham Hogg boss David Brent.

That sparked yet more cultural references, this time a reference to John Betjeman's poem Slough, from Guardian journalist Patrick Wintour: "Come friendly bombs come fall on Slough, it is not fit for humans or BlackBerrys now."

Other great wits took to Twitter to sardonically congratulate BlackBerry on honouring the death of Steve Jobs with a three day silence. But it's the long silence from RIM about when the problem will be solved which will be most harmful to the firm.

'Many users may depart when their contracts are up for renewal'