LOS ANGELES TIMES
Wednesday January 25, 2006
BlackBerry outage? Oh, the horror
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg will not stay at a certain upscale
It didn't work either.
"I walked through the halls holding both of them, looking for [reception] bars," he remembers. "Neither of them worked anywhere in the hotel." Rosenberg, who has charted
Now Rosenberg and about 4.3 million others are grappling with the possibility of going through "CrackBerry" withdrawal en masse. Research in Motion, which manufactures BlackBerry devices, is being threatened with an injunction stemming from a patent dispute, and on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. RIM says it has a plan to continue service even if forced to stop using the current technology, but is sketchy on details. And among BlackBerry aficionados and addicts, tension is high.
Elsewhere, BlackBerry foes celebrate. At the technology news website Digg.com, users write: "Shouldn't this read: 'CRACK-Berry Shutdown ordered, Millions of Drivers Rejoice??" and "They make people look self-important and busy" and "Die Blackberry! Die!"
There's a saying: Toss a Tinseltown player, and you'll hit a BlackBerry. Or there should be. And at the Marriott Hotel in
Nearby, Sydney Levine wore her BlackBerry on a dainty silver chain around her neck. She looked stricken at the idea of losing service. "We are a worldwide company," said Levine, president of Filmfinders, a Sundance festival sponsor. "We get hundreds of e-mails a day. If we had to wait for computers to access our e-mail, I don't know how I'd get my work done."
Many BlackBerry users will tell you: This is life or death. In a few cases, they're not kidding. At MedStar Health, a nonprofit that runs seven hospitals in Baltimore and Washington, about 460 executives and managers use BlackBerrys to keep in touch, says Sameer Bade, assistant vice president. "During some recent communication outages, BlackBerrys were the only way we could communicate with critical service employees," Bade says, and warns that uninterrupted communication is vital to hospitals in the nation's capital.
But there was a time before BlackBerrys, wasn't there? And doctors still healed the sick; movies still came out. These were simpler, more human times, say BlackBerry critics, many of them the spouses or children of vehement BlackBerry enthusiasts. Pamela Rosenberg actually cheered when she saw on the news that RIM was in trouble -- to the chagrin of her husband, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, he of the dual BlackBerrys.
"We can't have a nice dinner or go to a movie without him getting e-mails," says Pamela Rosenberg. "It's constant, all day and all night, in the middle of a conversation."
In his own defense ... well, actually, Scott Rosenberg mounts no defense. Guilty as charged. "We were on a family vacation once," he says, "and everybody was having dinner. I excused myself to go to the restroom, but I didn't use the facilities. I just went in there and wrote on my BlackBerry for half an hour. Then I came back to the table and said I had a stomachache. My uncle looked at me and whispered: 'BlackBerry.' "
This "BlackBerry divide" exists between people at the highest levels of government -- and their children. Says Debra Wong Yang, the
Ignored children and spouses, however, ought not celebrate yet, even if they do have a
There is a giddy schadenfreude that pervades the rest of the cellphone industry. "Wireless e-mail was ushered in by BlackBerry," says Rip Gerber, chief marketing officer at Intellisync, which bills itself as the second-largest provider of wireless e-mail after BlackBerry. "It was a great first act, but the show goes on. The audience has matured and wants much, much more. Thank you BlackBerry, the market will take it from here." Others who stand to benefit include Palm Inc., whose line of Treo smart phones is a popular alternative to BlackBerry, and new offerings from Nokia and Motorola.
Soap opera intrigue aside, legal experts say RIM simply has too much invested to let service stop; One way or another, they say, BlackBerrys will remain. (Internet gambling site Youwager.com is giving 2-1 odds that BlackBerry will be shut down in the next three months.) But there is something intriguing about the possibility of technology reversing its forward march. We have never held technology in our hands and loved it and hated it and watched it disappear. There should really be some sort of gizmo to help us weather these feelings we're having. RIM? Anyone? Anyone?!
Times staff writer Robin Abcarian contributed to this report from