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BlackBerry Blackouts Signal Need for Tech Overhaul


This year saw too much downtime in online services.

Even if sales records, company revenue, and engrossed subway commuters were of no indication, it's pretty self-evident that smartphones are taking off in a big way. With the growing demand, companies are scrambling -- or at least, should be -- to boost their infrastructure to accommodate the burgeoning traffic. But has it been enough?

While Apple (AAPL) and Motorola (MOT) have been hogging the spotlight as of late with their iPhones and Droids, respectively, the old stalwart -- the granddaddy of smartphones -- BlackBerry (RIMM) recently shined a spotlight (twice!) on the frequent and notable outages of 2009.

Research in Motion apologized for two outages in the span of a week that interrupted Internet and email service for several hours apiece. Messages were halted in both directions, roaming was disabled, and Internet browsing was shut down. According to the Wall Street Journal, the cause was attributed to a bug in the recent version of the company's instant messaging program.

In a subscriber-wide email, Research in Motion admitted that 100% of the country's 32 million users were affected by the service interruption regardless of the carrier -- AT&T (T), T-Mobile (DT), Verizon (VZ), and Sprint (S) users all experienced downtime.

Although the two recent outages were notable for the short interim between them, BlackBerry outages have occurred throughout the year -- in February, April, September, and November. In interest of security, Research in Motion routes its traffic through its own network-operations centers, but it comes at the risk of overflow if too many users are signed in. And for a company that's renowned for its reliability, it places a big question mark over every device on the shelf.

But this isn't just a BlackBerry issue. Service outages have famously plagued AT&T and Microsoft's (MSFT) Sidekick -- the latter resulting in a lengthy loss of some users' entire data log. Without question, it was a worst-case scenario that had users ruffled and proponents of cloud-based computing on the defense.
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