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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cold Turkey

As an Assembly Member I have use of a Blackberry so that my constituents can contact me wherever I am and so I can work from virtually any place. Personally, I prefer to be in front of a computer when dealing with e-mails as I have more functionality.

Some have embraced this technology more than others but none of us, I hope, have reached the level of dependence on these devices found in the United States.

It must have been particularly hard on all those hard-pressed executives when the service failed as it did in North America on Monday. The reaction to the outage is typical:

Carmi Levy, senior vice-president of strategic consulting at AR Communications, said reliability is a serious concern for companies like RIM because if problems become routine, they can drive customers away.

"It's a big issue and it's a growing issue," Levy said, adding that huge outages could prove to be "a major Achilles' heel" for RIM.

RIM notified its clients of the outage in an e-mail sent to large clients, saying: "This is an emergency notification regarding the current BlackBerry Infrastructure outage."

The last big outage in April 2007 provoked an angry backlash from more compulsive users, who have dubbed the device "CrackBerry" due to its drug-like addictiveness. At the time, co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie said such incidents were "very rare" and RIM was taking steps to prevent it from happening again.

RIM's worldwide subscriber base reached about 12 million people by late last year, mainly executives, politicians, lawyers and other professionals who rely on the BlackBerry to send secure e-mails. Sleeker new models are also catching on with students and others outside professional circles.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, said, "While the outage did confirm our widespread addiction to BlackBerry service, fortunately it did not cause more than a temporary inconvenience."

Voters go to the polls today in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, the latest battleground in a tight race between Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in November's election.

U.S. mobile phone service provider Verizon Wireless said the outage was affecting all carriers' BlackBerry e-mail service in North America. It said Verizon Wireless customers can still make calls on their BlackBerry.

Some appeared to enjoy a respite from the device.

"It made my life a little bit easier, since I didn't have to reply," Liberal Party spokesman Jean-Francois Del Torchio said from Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"But when I arrived at my desktop and I saw all the e-mails I received, I was like, 'Oh, I still need to work'," he added.

As the Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for ICT I just know I will get lots of anguished calls from AMs if it happens here.
So when was the last time that one of your constituents contacted you on your Blackberry? Or do you mean one of your staff who live in your constituency?
Peter – if I might ask, you do know (without looking it up) don’t you that “RIM” is a a Canadian company? “For a starter of ten”, and without looking it up, which is the #1 supplier of oil to the USA? “For a bonus”, again without looking it up, how much oil (roughly) is imported into the USA from the Middle East to generate electricity across the USA?

It might be a fair comment that there are a LOT of misconceptions and flat wrong assumptions about the USA among WAG AMs.
Shambo, do you know what you are talking about? Every time somebody e-mails me at the Assembly then it comes through on my blackberry. What the device does is enable me to deal with it whilst on the move as well as manage my diary. I dealt with about a dozen e-mails from constituents on it today.
Peter is correct here; his Blackberry is just a means of routing his emails from, inter alia, his constituents to his Blackberry! Meaning, the constituent can email via whatever interface/computer/email server they have ... and the emails are routed to Peter's Blackberry, so I should imagine that Peter has received a LOT of emails via his WAG Blackberry. But regardless of whether Peter gets an email or not on a particular day, he is still using his Blackberry every time he has it with him and it is switched on! It's a bit like a mobile phone, even if you are not "on it" ur still using it - it's "there" camping on a channel waiting to handle an incoming call. (Disclaimer: I've written several software patents for a household name company that provides cell phone/base stations/cell infra-structure manufacturer/supplier) while working for a downtown Chicago law firm.)
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