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One day after co-CEO Jim Balsillie gave a keynote address in Dubai -- to announce an innovation that, frankly, isn't very innovative -- Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM ) network suffered an outage that spanned across two continents. As a result, the stock closed down marginally on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) soared nearly 3%.
Though the specific number of those affected is unknown at this point, the UK's Guardian newspaper put the total in the "tens of millions" across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
The timing couldn't have been worse. Not only was Balsillie in an affected region the day prior, but also his unveiling of a forthcoming software service called Tag describes an old feature available in other phones as "innovation" for BlackBerry users.
But you wouldn't know it at first. Tag uses near-field communications (NFC) technology -- noticeably absent from Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) latest iPhone -- to share contact info, documents, and media quickly. Just gently bump two BlackBerry handsets together to complete a data transfer.
Sounds cool, right? It would be if it were new. Instead, a company called Bump Technologies has been providing an app for both iOS and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android that performs essentially the same function using the cloud and algorithms to match phone signatures.
As glitches go, neither the outage nor the lateness of Tag matters much. Rather, it's what these events represent -- first, that despite market-share losses to both iOS and Android, Research In Motion can't handle the capacity it has; and second, that there's so little innovation at RIM nowadays that a years-old iPhone app passes for improvement.
Too harsh? Perhaps. I've been pretty tough on RIM -- but that's only because the company operates in a tough market with tough competitors, including Apple, Google, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) . Mistakes cost more in an environment like that. Come next quarter, we may find that the price for this week's flubs is even higher than skeptics like me assume.
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