Free apps as BlackBerry outage compensation; Too little, too late?

Summary:Can the BlackBerry maker regain end-user confidence by dishing out free apps as compensation for the four-day outage?

BlackBerrys were once the forefront of the student lifestyle. There was nothing more exciting than placing one's phone on a desk or a lecture theatre table to show off this business-styled BlackBerry handset.

The desire to own either one or the other -- an iPhone or a BlackBerry -- gripped an entire generation, for all of about a year, until BlackBerrys began to simply fade away from college campuses.

Students went crazy for the BlackBerry. Its integrated QWERTY-keyboard and instant messaging capabilities, combined with cheap data plans and downloadable applications, made Research in Motion one of the most sought after phone manufacturer for student consumers.

Source: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via ctv.ca)

But faith has dwindled somewhat in the past year, for reasons unknown. The Generation Y consumer market is not only a difficult one to understand, but also an equally tricky one to predict.

What is clear, however, is that the base of BlackBerry users still within the part-student, part Generation Y market, are still active, enthusiastic users of the once-popular smartphone.

It is, however, only a small proportion of its rapidly declining overall user spread.

As the BlackBerry maker tries to make up for an outage spread over four days through various regions, the company behind the smartphone series is offering a selection of free applications to 'compensate' users for their losses.

Games and applications, including Bejeweled, Sims 3 and others, worth more than $100 in total, will be made available over the next few weeks and will be free until the end of the year.

It will be a short-term fix to a long-term problem. I cannot see it recouping the total, non-financial losses the company has already forfeited during the extensive outage.

It would be unlikely under any circumstances for the BlackBerry maker to offer out cash as an alternative. Considering Research in Motion only really has control over the BlackBerry App World -- the phone application store -- rather than data prices or phone bills, it is all the company can offer.

To truly compensate users for the downtime, where data connections were impossible and email resolution never came, nor would data-reliant applications function or BlackBerry Messenger communicate, the company can restore faith and confidence in the service with its remaining customer base.

But that will probably never happen.

BlackBerry is on a sinking ship, and this could topple Research in Motion over the cliff of no return. Just taking into account the investor situation, with many still unforgiving after the outage hit over 50 million people worldwide.

In such a short space of time -- something that cannot be put down to nothing short of good luck on Apple's part -- the iPhone 4S saw record sales of a million pre-orders in a mere twenty-four hour period. As TechRepublic report, over 1 in 5 new iPhone 4S buyers are switching from their BlackBerry or other phones.

A short-term burst of free products may be enough to bribe a small section of the cash-strapped student market. But, the wider industry and consumer collective has a long way to go before it can forgive the Canadian company after its half-week BlackBerry outage.

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Topics: iPhone, Apple, BlackBerry, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Outage

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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