Uptime and Downtime

BBCoolThere was a pretty cool editorial posted on Slashdot on service downtime, citing BlackBerry outages over the last few months. The big question that the editorial asks is “why don’t we expect more?” It’s a tough nut to crack, but a lot of it revolves around the precedent set by service providers and available alternatives.

With RIM’s repeated service interruptions, we’re coming to expect on average an outage per month. It’s hard to not grow more jaded and complacent. Ideally, consumer expectations should shape the products and services we receive, but it’s largely the other way around. If there are no other options, customers will make do with what they have, and lower the bar in order to make the solution acceptable. In the corporate environment that BlackBerry dominates, alternatives aren’t there, especially when the modus operandi is handed down from on high. That works just fine; the extra accommodations for sub-optimal products can make them viable, but the value certainly lowers. It might be unfair to call something that’s up 99% of the time broken, but if it’s put next to something that’s functioning 100% of the time, the value difference is clear. By offering anything less than 99.999% uptime, you leave a gap open for competition.

Of course there’s lee-way - shit happens, right? No doubt the folks at RIM are doing their damnedest to make sure everything runs smoothly, but the more that external pressure for an excellent product and high standards dissipates, the more easily the exception can become the rule. If we aren’t expecting more, we’re expecting less, and the products we receive will reflect that. If innovation and reliable service are actually things that we as customers want, there have to be repercussions when those standards aren’t met, otherwise it’s just lip service. Those repercussions don’t have to be in the form of torches and pitchforks waved high, but anything other than resignation constitutes an opportunity for competition and better products all around.

No doubt letting outages go by without making a fuss is better for the blood pressure and the soul, and competition will always be pushing RIM to innovate regardless of the expectations of existing customers, but our standards will determine the pace of that innovation. If you want a better BlackBerry, just make some noise - RIM’s listening.

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