BlackBerry's touchscreen talk interrupted by service outage

At 3GSM in Barcelona this week, Research In Motion Ltd. looks forward to new form factors while back home, customers are left confused as to whether their e-mails are being received.

At 3:30 pm EST Monday afternoon, a widespread infrastructure outage hit BlackBerry services, cutting off wireless e-mail for users all across North America. An emergency notification to corporate customers was sent to users providing no insight into the cause, scope, or estimated resolution time of the outage...ironically, via e-mail.

Today, assuring customers that their messages have not been lost, Research In Motion issued a statement, though still lacking an explanation as to why the outage occurred. Some are speculating that IP address glitches in the RIM network factored into the outage, but nothing has been confirmed.

This is the second time in under a year that an outage of "critical severity" has taken place for the Ontario-based service. In the wake of the last outage, RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said that such occurrences were very rare.

At 3GSM today in Barcelona, prior to the outage news, Balsillie had enjoyed a day of being asked about the possibility of a touchscreen BlackBerry. His answers were purposefully vague, but favorable nonetheless.

He said the company is looking at "all kinds of different device packaging and presentation," while noting that "getting religious" with device style and packaging isn't a prudent route to take, and that it should depend on the user's preference.

User preferences today appears to highly favor touchscreen devices, with Apple's top-selling iPhone, HTC's popular Touch, LG's Voyager, and now Sony Ericsson's new X1. With former competitor Palm's success severely on the wane, BlackBerry could ease into the space formerly occupied by the longtime touchscreen smartphone manufacturer, providing business-optimized handsets with full QWERTY and tactile interfaces.

An improved interface, however, would not compensate for RIM's network's inability to sustain its critical e-mail traffic. RIM headquarters maintains the company is focusing on providing "industry-leading reliability" for its products and services.

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