Research in Motion confirmed that Vodafone customers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East were experiencing some “service issues” Friday morning. In a message posted to the company’s British Twitter account, RIM indicated that it was working with the carrier to get full service restored.
The service problems do not appear to be as large-scale as the company’s outage in October 2011, when a problem with its European servers snowballed into disruptions across the world, including in the United States.
But it is bad timing for Research in Motion as it races toward the much-delayed launch of its latest operating system, BB10, at the end of the month. The launch, seen as the company’s last chance to mount a comeback, is set for Jan. 30. After many quarters of declining subscriber growth, RIM reported its first subscriber loss in December.
Things have mostly been moving in RIM’s favor. The company didn’t make an appearance at the International CES tech show, VentureBeat reported, but it still had a presence there as AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile announced that they would all carry BB10 devices.
The company has also been slowly recovering from a sharp drop in its stock price after it announced that it would stop charging regular customers lucrative service fees, to lower the cost of owning a BlackBerry and bring prices more in line with phones running Apple’s iOS of Google’s Android mobile operating system. Service fees made up 36 percent, or about $980 million of the company’s revenue in its last reported quarter.
Enterprise customers, which include the business and government contracts that are the company’s bread and butter, will still be charged the fees to cover extra security and device management services.
In an analyst’s note Wednesday, Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu maintained a neutral rating on the company, saying that it has potential to succeed on the higher end of the market. RIM, Wu said, has passed the first tests of running leaner and getting carriers on board with its launch. But, he noted, the real test of whether it can make any dent in the Apple-Google mobile duopoly is yet to come.
BB10 also faces competition for third place from a surprisingly strong Nokia-Microsoft partnership. On Thursday, Nokia stock soared on better-than-expected sales of the Lumia 920, its flagship phone for Microsoft’s latest mobile operating system. With its existing PC presence in businesses and schools, Microsoft is also well-positioned to gain a foothold in the market as the third-place operating system — if Lumia sales are an indication of strong interest in the platform.