LONDON/HELSINKI (Reuters) – Canada’s Research In Motion Ltd will offer free premium apps worth more than $100 to appease BlackBerry customers frustrated by service disruption last week which ran for days and affected millions.
Research In Motion said the complete selection of premium apps would become available to download at BlackBerry App World for four weeks beginning October 19.
Enterprise customers will also be offered one month of free technical support as an apology for the outage.
The offering, to compensate for a system failure that left tens of millions of Blackberry users on five continents without email, instant messaging and browsing, could be expensive for RIM and it remains to be seen how many customers will see the offer as an acceptable response.
Analysts have said the company faces a wider problem from the damage to its reputation and loss of corporate customers who no longer think they can rely on the device.
“We’ve worked hard to earn their (customers’) trust over the past 12 years and we’re committed to providing the high standard of reliability they expect,” RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis said in a statement.
“We are taking immediate and aggressive steps to help prevent something like this from happening again.”
RIM co-CEOs Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie apologized last week to millions of Blackberry customers for the four-day outage which tarnished the company’s reputation and set back its drive to catch up with the likes of Apple Inc and its iPhone.
Some mobile operators such as Spanish group Telefonica SA have already said they will compensate customers, although analysts believe they will also be looking at whether they can pass on some of those costs to RIM.
“RIM has responded swiftly but this won’t undo the damage done to its reputation,” analyst Geoff Blaber at CCS Insight told Reuters. “This may go some way to appeasing customers but what’s critical is that the problem does not repeat itself.”
The apps include games such as Bejeweled, a translation service and the music discovery tool Shazam.
Francisco Jeronimo at IDC said the decision was a clever move by RIM because it would help customers to discover the app service. He said the company was likely to have struck a deal with app developers to keep the cost down.
“For RIM, this is an interesting way to attract users to the App World and incentivise them to search and download apps,” he said. “What RIM probably did was an agreement with developers and is not charging the percentage on revenues they keep when a user buys an app.”
“More important than the offer itself, is that RIM is showing goodwill and being humble. They recognized the problem, apologized and now they are compensating their users.”