The last thing it needs
In the ruthless, ultra-competitive tech business companies tend to get kicked when they're down. This happens to consistently to be a coincidence.
RIM has been struggling to maintain market share for some time in the face of more advanced smartphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung, with much larger and better supported platform ecosystems. While it has lost ground in North America, gains in EMEA and other international markets have compensated, to some degree, thanks to the enduring desirability of its email and BBM services.
So it would be fair to day that one of the worst things that could happen to RIM is for these two BlackBerry services to fail across international markets for an extended period. This is exactly what has happened.
On Monday there was widespread disruption across EMEA, but by Tuesday morning we had received the following update from RIM: "Yesterday, some BlackBerry subscribers in the EMEA region experienced delays with BlackBerry services. The issue was resolved and services are operating normally. We apologize to those customers who were impacted for any inconvenience."
But later yesterday we received another couple of updates from RIM. At 4pm there was this: "Some users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, India, Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are experiencing messaging and browsing delays. We are working to restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience this has caused."
Then, by 10pm, RIM felt compelled to offer a more comprehensive explanation: "The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM's infrastructure.
"Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed."
Oh dear. While it's good that RIM is keeping people informed, the genie is very much out of the bottle. End-users have been shaking their fists in outrage and frustration since Monday, such that searches for RIM or BlackBerry on Twitter reveal such a volume of criticism that it's impossible to read any of them as they scroll down in a blur.
This really is the last thing RIM needs right now, not least with the iPhone 4S about to hit the shops. If even Alan Sugar - hardly synonymous with technological perfection - is deriding you, then things can't be going well. This technical issue may have given many BlackBerry users who were thinking of defecting all the motivation they need.