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RIM's free apps, tech support get measure of support

Companies less interested in compensation than making sure RIM keeps the network up and running

October 17, 2011 03:40 PM ET

Computerworld - Reaction was somewhat positive to Research in Motion's compensation offer to its customers after last week's global BlackBerry outage that lasted as long three days for some users.

RIM said it would offer free apps valued at more than $100 to its 70 million customers "as an expression of appreciation for their patience during the recent service disruptions."

RIM also said enterprise customers would be offered a month of free technical support. Current customers will get a one-month extension of their technical support contracts, while those without a contract will get one month of enhanced tech support free of charge.

"I think that's a good response" to the outages, said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner. "They can't break the company. Users should want RIM to remain viable."

Several business customers said they would evaluate the compensation offers before offering a comment.

Separately, many consumers tweeted reactions from "Really?" to wanting to see a full list of the free apps. "Where do we get our free stuff then?" tweeted LukeMarsden.

Several tweeted that one of the free apps, Texas Hold'em Poker 2 by Gameloft, is a gambling app and was an ironic choice given RIM's current circumstances. RIM listed the others as SIMS 3, Bejeweled, NOVA, Bubble Bash 2, Photo Editor Ultimate, DriveSafe.lyPro, iSpeech Translator Pro, Drive Enterprise, Nobex Radio Premium, Shazam Encore and Vlingo Plus: Virtual Assistant.

The complete selection of apps will become available over four weeks, starting Wednesday, and will be available until Dec. 31.

Despite the compensation, some users said they will move off the BlackBerry platform as soon as their carrier contracts run out or a suitable replacement technology becomes available.

"The outage mattered to us, but there wasn't much we could do about it," said Paul Rowton, vice president of Edward Food Giant in Marianna, Ark., in a telephone interview. Several executives still use a BlackBerry, he added.

"We'll probably switch when the iPhone gets 4G capability." That could come in the next version, but not for a year, industry insiders have said.

Rowton said he couldn't assess the value of a free month of tech support or the free apps without more consideration. The most important thing is to have reliable service, he argued. "The outage was frustrating. I tried to get closer to a laptop."

Melvin Goodyear, an infrastructure analyst at Newfoundland Power, a division of Canada-based Fortis, said the outage created big headaches for him on a trip to New York last week. Compensation from RIM is less important than making a thorough evaluation of continued usage of BlackBerry devices, he said.

During the outage, Goodyear had to resort to texting or voice calls with his BlackBerry, which felt like going back to the 1990s, he said. Each text cost him 50 cents, and texting wasn't the best channel for getting tech support updates.

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