Many BlackBerry subscribers rely on the device to carry out daily operations -- things they used to do without technology. Who are those subscribers? In 2004, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server was installed in more than 17,000 companies and government organizations worldwide and counted more than 100,000 government personnel among its users [source: BNET].
An inability to access e-mail or the Internet for a BlackBerry-dependent hospital, for example, could prevent doctors from being able to get orders and prescribe drugs. An interruption in communication among BlackBerry-using emergency crews might keep personnel from being able to access important evacuation plans or emergency call lists.
The feds love them, too. The U.S. Department of Justice called them "essential for the federal government" in a motion filed to allow workers to keep using the devices, regardless of the outcome of its earlier patent infringement trial [source: Kawamoto].
Still not convinced? After the major outage in April 2007, a poll measuring the prevalence of mobile e-mail at large organizations found that 81 percent of respondents experienced noticeable disruptions in their company's operations [source: Rendleman].
They may not have known about PIN-to-PIN communication. This system allows BlackBerry users to contact one another even if e-mail and Internet service are down. Each BlackBerry has a unique PIN, or personal identification number, and users can send messages to one another with that. PIN messages aren't routed through the e-mail account, so they aren't affected by problems with the server or at the operation centers.
Whether BlackBerry outages will continue as users increase remains to be seen. As of press time RIM hadn't made changes to its infrastructure, but with revenue up 98 percent in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008, it might be able to afford them. Some observers of the smartphone market speculate that the outages will drive away RIM's customers, but others think that the BlackBerry's benefits outweigh the cost of an occasional blackout. If RIM's recent numbers are any indication, the company will weather the outages just fine. Despite competition from the Apple iPhone, RIM sold a record number of the devices during its fourth quarter [source: Long].
For more on the BlackBerry blackout bonanza, you can try the links on the following page, as long as you're not trying to do it with your BlackBerry during an upgrade.