Spoiled, I say, the whole lot of us.
Americans have grown so dependent on technology that it's major news when something actually ceases to function, even if for only a few hours. Witness BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM) admission yesterday that a widespread outage on its network delayed email service to its customers around the world. The front-page news practically rivaled the complete power outages across several Northeastern states in 2003. Actual headlines regarding the outage include "BlackBerry Outage Rocks Users" and "BlackBerry Outage Upsets White House."
Various user experiences indicate that the wireless email service was disrupted for less than 12 hours, but that's enough time to cause problems and anger customers. News of the issue spread quickly on the Internet as customers turned to alternative forms of communication to conduct their business or just vent their frustration.
But that's the kind of attention you get when you supply a service that many business and government workers have become critically dependent on. Ever since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, people have come to believe that wireless email -- and BlackBerries specifically -- were virtually infallible and capable of providing connectivity when other options failed.
All the ballyhoo about the service interruption raises a good point: In communications, 100% reliability is an expectation. Telecommunication companies like AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) know that we are but weakly human in this area, and tout reliability as a core marketing message.
Just imagine the horror that would ensue if instant messaging platforms from AOL or Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) MSN went down for a brief spell. Bewildered by text silence, teens the world over would suffer the equivalent of the Windows blue screen of death as synapses set for constant connectedness were savagely severed.
All kidding and teen-bashing aside, though, the event shows we need RIM as much as it needs 8 million of us as subscribers to the service. Case in point: The whole commotion had little effect on the stock, and droves of BlackBerry lovers did not immediately jump ship and scout out alternatives like Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM) Treo, Motorola's (NYSE: MOT) Q, or Nokia's (NYSE: NOK) E series of smartphones.
This makes me think that as much as we expect 100% reliability -- and whine when we don't get it -- we are still willing to pay for the tremendous convenience and value wireless email brings 99.9% of the time. And for RIM, that's nothing to complain about.
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Fool contributor Dave Mock is a wine and cheese kinda guy -- Gouda and Merlot hit the spot. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.