RIM’s Response to Recent Service Outage; $100 Worth of Free Apps as Apology

If there’s one thing you use your BlackBerry for, it’s games, right?

In response to the recent BlackBerry service outage, which left millions of users across the world with a completely useless device, RIM has apologized for the disruption and is attempting to win some confidence back. In a Press Release issued early this morning, Research in Motion announced they will be offering premium apps  to customers as an expression of appreciation. The short list of apps and games will be available later this week, and will stay “free” until the end of 2011. It’s about as free as the $40/month you pay your carrier for access to RIM’s proprietary backhaul.

Likely, you have a BlackBerry for enterprise use (because it’ll cost the company too much to drop the antiquated service), well RIM isn’t ignoring you either. Corporate enterprise customers will receive one month of free technical support. A whole 30 days of technical service tacked onto your existing ball-and-chain contract with RIM — free!

The complete selection of premium apps will become available to download at BlackBerry App World over a period of four weeks beginning Wednesday, October 19th.   The selections over this period will include the following (with more to come):

•  SIMS 3 – Electronic Arts
•  Bejeweled – Electronic Arts
•  N.O.V.A. – Gameloft
•  Texas Hold’em Poker 2 – Gameloft
•  Bubble Bash 2 – Gameloft
•  Photo Editor Ultimate – Ice Cold Apps
•  DriveSafe.ly Pro – iSpeech.org
•  iSpeech Translator Pro – iSpeech.org
•  Drive Safe.ly Enterprise – iSpeech.org
•  Nobex Radioâ„¢ Premium – Nobex
•  Shazam Encore – Shazam
•  Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant – Vlingo

RIM’s enterprise customers will also be offered one month of free Technical Support.   Current customers will be offered a complimentary one month extension of their existing Technical Support contract, and customers who do not currently have a Technical Support contract will be offered a one month trial of RIM’s BlackBerry Technical Support Services – Enhanced Support, free of charge.   Additional details about the program and information about how to register will be available at  www.blackberry.com/enterpriseoffer.

It’s a pretty unclear message that RIM is sending. “Our service was down for 3 days and you were left with a brick in your pocket, here are some free games to play (for when the service goes out again), and if you pay for the service, we’ll offer your free technical support (to tell you when the service goes out again)“.

It should also be noted that of the 12 listed apps that RIM will be offering customers, most of them  require  an active data connection to be of any use. You can’t use Shazam, Nobex Radio or the iSpeech applications without service.

So be sure to fire up AppWorld on your BlackBerry and grab those games before the service goes down again, we all know you can’t survive with BrickBreaker for another 3 days.

Kik Comes Back To BlackBerry

It’s been 10 long months for Blackberry users who coerced their friends into using Kik, have been waiting for a new app. If you recall, Kik landed themselves in hot water with RIM when they first released their real-time chatting application. It was a direct competitor to BlackBerry Messenger and it was suspected they were using unsanctioned API and mimicking RIM’s own messaging service. They were ousted from the App World in November of last year.

Almost a year later, Kik has released a reworked and revamped client for their cross-platform service. It’s a universal Java app, built with no service calls or APIs that are specific to RIM. No RIM-owned NoC infrastructure notifications are being used. The app is lacking in a few features, like sending pictures and it’s missing support for the PlayBook — but it’s back and RIM can go fly a kite.

Kik is distributing the BlackBerry app exclusively on their site, as RIM is unlikely to allow it back into the App World for fear of users abandoning their proprietary service. Who can blame them, when RIM is having issues with their service, leaving users stranded for days due to outages.

Kudos to Kik for working around the blocks that some pinheads at RIM put in place, as an attempt to force existing users to stay with their inferior products and services.

Kik aims to be a completely free, cross-platform solution for instant messaging across mobile devices. It’s available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and now, again, BlackBerry platforms. Visit the Kik Blog  for full details and to download the app to your PaperWeight  BlackBerry.

RIM Service Outage Frustrates Blackberry Users Worldwide

Research In Motion announced on it’s website today, that they are continuing to struggle with intermittent service outages. Problems began for the ailing company on Monday in Europe and have continued to spread to the U.S. and Canada today.

Blackberry Down

There is a link on their main page to the service updates. Below, you can see quoted from their website what has been announced up to the time of this article.

BlackBerry Service Update

Wednesday 12th October 9:45 (GMT-5)
BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience. We will provide a further update as soon as more information is available.

Wednesday 12th October 12:00 (GMT+1)
We know that many of you are still experiencing service problems. The resolution of this service issue is our Number One priority right now and we are working night and day to restore all BlackBerry services to normal levels. We will continue to keep this page updated.

Tuesday 11th October – 21:30 (GMT+1)
The messaging and browsing delays that some of you are still experiencing 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 sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to many of you and we will continue to keep you informed.

Tuesday 11th October – 16:00 (GMT+1)
Some of you are experiencing messaging and browsing delays. We are working to restore normal service as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

Monday 10th October – 20:46 (GMT+1)
Our sincere apologies to all of you affected by today’s BlackBerry service issues.

Monday 10th October – 15:00 (GMT+1)
We are currently working to resolve an issue impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. In the meantime, we apologise to you for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

It appears that problems began in North America sometime late Tuesday night. One of the Project Managers at my company experienced the problem this morning. Phone calls were coming through to his phone, but he could not browse the web or get email.

Frustrations like this are the last thing RIM needs right now. The iPhone and Android phones have almost wiped the Blackberry out of existence. According to a Business Week article, “RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell 1.8 percent to $23.97 at 10:48 a.m. New York time. Before today, the stock had dropped 58 percent this year.” A failure like this could prove to be a fatal blow if they don’t get this resolved soon.  There have been calls for a change of leadership in the RIM organization. It is hard to blame leadership for hardware failure, however, stack this on top of all the other challenges they face and it can’t help.

Are you a Blackberry user? If so, how has this affected you and will it affect your future purchasing decisions?

Is RIM Killing the Blackberry Playbook? Update: Nope, It Isn’t!

The tablet market is getting increasingly competitive. Apple, the first major entrant in the tablet market, is still ruling it with a market share of around 80%. Android hasn’t yet been able to replicate its smartphone success in tablets just yet, and Microsoft is yet to enter the tablet market. It will launch Windows 8 only in 2012, and risks being late to the party.

Amazon launched a new $199 Android tablet — the Kindle Fire — yesterday, which is expected to change the game. In my opinion, it will kill off any competition in the low end of the tablet market which is currently dominated by Chinese OEMs, while affecting iPad sales only marginally.

Blackberry Playbook

RIM which foolishly priced its lackluster offering — the Blackberry Playbook — at the same price as the iPad, has been seeing continually dropping sales. Last quarter, it shipped just 200,000 tablets, which is about the number that Apple sells in a couple of days.

With Amazon’s Kindle Fire, RIM is starting to feel the heat, and according to a report by BGR, it has finally pulled the plug on the Blackberry Playbook. Sources at Quanta, RIM’s manufacturing partner reveal that it has laid off a lot of workers working on the Playbook, essentially halting the production of the tablet. While RIM hasn’t confirmed the news, it seems quite plausible.

I hope RIM holds a firesale for its remaining Playbook inventory too, just like HP did for the TouchPad. I would definitely buy one for $99.

Update from WSJ: Apparently, RIM isn’t killing the Playbook. In an email statement, it said that the report was “pure fiction”, and that it “remains highly committed to the tablet market.”

What You Can’t Run on the Blackberry Playbook’s Android Emulator: Pretty Much Everything

When RIM announced the Blackberry Playbook, it also said that it would support one nifty feature — an Android emulator. It said that the Blackberry Playbook would be able to run Android apps in an emulated run-time environment. This was one of the most highly anticipated features of the Playbook, which would allow Playbook users to use all Android apps on their devices.

Since it was obvious that the Playbook wasn’t going to attract enough developer support to build a large library of apps, this was a nice way to attract consumers by piggy-backing off Android huge app library. However, it wasn’t available when the Playbook launched.

Recently, RIM announced that it would be launching the Blackberry runtime for Android apps soon, hoping to breathe some life into the dying Playbook, which shipped just 200,000 units last quarter to manufacturers.

It was a moment to rejoice, for all users of the Blackberry Playbook around the world — a grand total of around 673. However, some things are just not meant to be. Today, RIM announced some more details about the runtime emulator for Android apps, specifically which features would be unavailable to Android apps running on the emulator.

Here is a laundry list of some significant Android features which will not be supported by the Playbook, rendering certain types of apps useless.

  • Apps using live wallpapers
  • Apps using SIP and SIP VOIP protocols
  • Apps built using the NDK
  • Apps containing only app widgets
  • Apps containing more than more than one Launcher activity
  • Apps using Google Maps
  • Apps using in-app billing
  • Apps using Android’s text-to-speech engine
  • Apps using Android’s cloud-to-device messaging system

We all knew that running Android apps on the emulator in a Playbook was going to be a crappy experience, exactly as running low resolution smartphone apps on a high resolution tablet display using a software emulator ought to be. However, with all these types of apps not supported, you have a significant number of apps which make Android awesome completely incompatible with the Playbook.

There is no reason anyone should want to buy a Blackberry Playbook now, unless RIM does a firesale and starts selling it for $99 like HP.

Screw you, RIM. You messed up the one thing on the Playbook that we looked forward to.

RIM Reports Q2 Results: Revenues Down, Only 200K Playbooks Shipped

Research in Motion just announced their Q2 FY2012 results for the quarter ended August 27, 2011, and they seem to indicate just what everyone suspected.

Its revenue in the second quarter dropped to $4.2 billion, down 15% from the last quarter and down 10% from Q2 2010. Its net income has dropped to just $329 million, less than half what it was in the last quarter.

Blackberry smartphone shipments dropped to 10.6 million, while Playbook shipments were just 200,000. It’s very likely that this number is the number of Playbooks shipped to retailers, and not actual sales. Compared to the sales of the Apple iPad, this is a laughable figure.

The results have been much lower than expectations. Investors have started dumping the stock already, with $RIMM down more than 18% in after-hours trading.

Rumors suggest that the Blackberry Playbook may soon be going the HP Touchpad way. Blackberry is banking on its new OS 7 devices to boost sales in the next quarter, but that seems to be a remote possibility for now. It seems that RIM’s future depends on the success of the QNX platform that it plans to launch in 2012.

You can download the earnings release for Q2 FY12 here – Research In Motion Reports Second Quarter Fiscal 2012 Results

RIM Announces The BBM Music For BlackBerry Smartphones

Research-In-Motion (RIM) recently  announced  the new BBM Music service for the BlackBerry smartphone users. BBM(BlackBerry Messenger) Music is an easy-to-use cloud based music service, which allows you to discover and access great music and share it with your BBM Music friends. Currently, you can select your favorite music from millions of songs from leading music companies including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI.

BBM Music allows you to create a personal music profile with up to 50 of your favorite songs and share them with your BBM Music Community. You can listen to full tracks, instead of just pre-views from your friend’s profile. BBM Music also allows you to save your favorite tracks, so that you can easily listen them, even if you go offline. Check out the complete features, after the break.

bbm music

Features of BBM Music

  • Music made social BBM Music is a cloud-based, social music service that allows you to share and discover music with your friends, creating a continually evolving music library:
  • Build a personal music profile with 50 of your favorite songs. You can refresh your profile by swapping out up to 25 songs each month.
  • Invite your BBM friends to subscribe to BBM Music and to join your BBM Music Community.
  • With each friend that is added to BBM Music, you grow your music collection since the songs from the profile of each BBM Music friend are available to you at any time.
  • Up to 50 tracks from your personal profile are shared with your BBM Music Community, and each member of your community shares up to 50 songs from their profile with you.
  • Enjoy a truly social community-based music experience the more friends who join your community, the more songs you can listen to.
  • Easily discover music that your BBM Music friends are listening to, and comment on your friends’ songs and playlists.
  • You can create multiple playlists from music in your profile as well as all of your friends’ profiles, and with one click you can shuffle the entire collection of music from your BBM Music Community. You can even see which friend contributed each song while it plays.
  • Within your BBM Music app, you also see a visual timeline that shows the recent updates of all users within your community. It gives you a chronological view of community updates, including who added new friends, which songs were added or removed, which playlists were created and what comments were made by your BBM Music friends.
  • Listen to Full Tracks – BBM Music subscribers can listen to full tracks from their friends’ profiles not just previews.
  • Offline Listening – Music can be saved to smartphones for offline listening, allowing users to access songs even when they don’t have wireless coverage.
  • Topping the Charts Keep track of how many friends are listening to your tracks.

BBM Music service will be available later this year in Australia, Canada, Columbia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, the United Kingdom and the United States for a monthly subscription of $4.99.

Lenovo Throws Their ThinkPad Tablet Into The Mix

With tablets being the talk of the town recently, thanks to HP liquidating their TouchPad for $99 after killing off webOS, Lenovo has decided to finally announce and release their ThinkPad Tablet. Although Lenovo has had the IdeaPad series of tablets available for quite some time, the new instalment brings along the well-known “ThinkPad” brand and markets it directly to the the business crowd.

 

Built atop Android 3.1, it brings along corporate-centric software such as Documents To Go, Citrix Receiver and PrinterShare. The ThinkPad Tablet even goes to the extent of bundling McAfee’s Mobile Security package for Android in an obvious attempt to appeal to upper management. Full device and SD card encryption is supported, along with anti-theft software and remote device disabling.

With Android pushing the ARMs race, it should come as no surprise that the ThinkPad Tablet continues along with the trend.

  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual-Core 1GHz Processor
  • 1GB LPDDR2 RAM
  • 10.1 WXGA (1280×800) 16:10 IPS screen with Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 5 megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Up to 64GB of storage
  • Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G connectivity
  • Native USB 2.0 and micro-USB ports, full-size SD card slot and mini-HDMI output

The tablet also brings along 3 accessories for maximising productivity. The Tablet Dock is as it sounds, a dock that stands the device up to provide easy viewing angles and port extension. The Keyboard Folio packs a case and physical keyboard all into one. The Tablet Pen allows for fine-tuned pressure-sensitive precision on the capacitive multi-touch display.

The Wi-Fi-only version of the ThinkPad Tablet is priced unusually high. $499, $569 and $669 for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB devices, respectively. Lenovo plans to integrate mobile broadband into the next version of the tablets to allow for 3G connectivity.

It’s nice to see that ThinkPad continues its styling and design in the tablet instead of straying to provide an iPad look-a-like. Targeted mainly towards the business professional, a market where the only competitor is the BlackBerry PlayBook, the ThinkPad Tablet certainly has clear advantages over consumer devices. Both RIM and Lenovo have strong ties to the corporate world through existing products, and with HP no longer pushing their TouchPad, it’s become an even smaller space to compete.

Look Out RIM, US Govt Testing iPad & iPhone For Security Standards

Given Apple’s recent Q2 numbers  indicating a 113% growth in iPhone sales, it’s no real surprise that people love their iOS devices. Many businesses and organizations have been slowly loosening their grip on forcing employees to use ‘sanctioned’ devices (read: BlackBerrys) in order for provisioning and providing support on their corporate network. Employees are now being allowed to put their consumer devices to business use, provided they meet certain requirements. The US government is no different.

The US Department of Commerce recently signed off on a $44,000  purchase of ‘Apple Equipment’, which consists of 55 iPad 2 tablets and 5 16GB iPhone 4s. The acquisition request was put through by the National Institute of Standards and Technology  (NIST) and was approved just a few days ago. One of the most relevant things to keep in mind, is that NIST provides mandates and standard procedures for FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002). Among other things, FISMA governs the development, documentation and implementation of information security and information systems within government agencies. Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) are used to define standards developed by the US federal government for implementation in computer systems. This is where FIPS-140-1 and FIPS-140-2 come into play, which define a standard for cryptography modules.

As seen above, NIST has recently updated their Cryptographic Module Validation Program Process List  (PDF) to include both the iPad and iPhone FIPS cryptographic module tests. Both are in IUT (Implementation Under Testing) phase as of August 1st, 2011. This comes just after RIM announced the PlayBook to be the first FIPS-140-2 compliant tablet  for deployment within federal agencies.

Could this be an indicator that the US government is aggressively looking to bring iOS devices to their federal workforce instead of simply renewing contracts with Research in Motion for legacy BlackBerry devices? RIM has had the government supply market locked up for decades, it’s a very strict niche, but if anybody can force their way through, it’s Apple.

RIM to Announce New Blackberry 7 OS Devices Today

The official account of Research in Motion on Twitter, @BlackBerry, just tweeted out that RIM will be announcing some new devices running the new Blackberry 7 OS today.


You got it! New #BlackBerry devices are coming w/ our new OS, BlackBerry 7! Check back tmrw 4 deets on #BB7FanNight. ^CHless than a minute ago via CoTweet Favorite Retweet Reply

They haven’t specified which device launches they will be announcing, but we do have a rough idea of what they will announce, based on the multiple leaks and announcements in the last couple months.

If I was a betting man, my money would be on these devices being announced, along with the launch details:

  • Blackberry Bold 9900
  • Blackberry Torch 9810
  • Blackberry Touch 9860
  • Blackberry Curve 9360
  • Blackberry PlayBook 4G

Most of these devices will be launched on multiple carriers, and should be available by the end of August. Most of them have been announced already, but we should see exact release dates on various carriers today.

This will probably be the last major release of devices running the Blackberry OS. The next series of Blackberry devices will likely be powered by a QNX based OS, and will sport dual core processors. While all the devices I listed above are much better than their predeessors, they still leave a lot to be desired when compared to the current crop of Android smartphones. With the iPhone 5 launching in September, it’s only going to get tougher for RIM.